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Political science department launches roundtable discussions on elections

October 17, 2014

The UW-River Falls political science department is starting something new: political roundtable discussions.

The goal of these discussions is to get the campus community talking about political issues that not only affect River Falls, but the entire world as well.

“Our generation would benefit from even a broad base understanding of political issues,” said political science major Morgan Stippel. “I think it would make for a lot more politically active and engaged society.”

In addition to getting people talking about political issues, the political science department would also like to bring more visibility to itself.

“We’re a little bit smaller than we once were, and the university is a little bit smaller,” said political science Chair Neil Kraus. “And everybody is trying to figure out how to get their student enrollment numbers up.”

The discussions will be held once a month in the University Center. A political science professor will lead a 20- 30 minute discussion and then open the roundtable to audience questions and comments. The discussion topics will vary every month.

“We want to get students who don’t know much about us to come and listen to a talk and then from that hopefully become interested in taking political science classes,” Kraus said.

This month’s roundtable will be held Tuesday, Oct. 21, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. It will be held in the University Center, 231 Trimbelle Room. The topic will be “Key Races in the 2014 Elections” and will be led by political science professor Davida Alperin.

“We’re going to focus on the national elections,” Alperin said. “There are some pretty controversial and close races such as the Governor’s race in Wisconsin, but we’re not going to focus on that, we’re going to focus on what might change in Congress.”

Students in political science course 311 will also be able to participate and update people on what is happening with these elections.

“Students have been doing research on different races,” Alperin said.

Even students who are not majoring or minoring in political science will find these discussions helpful because roundtable speakers will focus on real-world issues that affect everyone. Alperin and Kraus both believe that these discussions are a useful way to not only learn something, but also ask questions.

“It’s a way to make the issues of political science relevant to students,” Stippel said. “These issues may not seem to relate to you, but they do. It’s taking an abstract topic like government, and relating it to your life.”

Last month’s discussion was led by professor Christopher Simer on the topic of the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). The goal of ISIS is to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria.

“My knowledge on this topic is probably more than some, but still pretty basic, and I found myself learning quite a bit,” Kraus said.

If the discussions continue to go well, Kraus has plans to continue holding them in the spring. He plans to bring in speakers from outside the UWRF faculty as well.

“You don’t have to come with a lot of knowledge,” Alperin said. “It’s just interesting to share information.”

Roundtable discussions will be held once a month around the lunch time hour so attendees are encouraged to bring their lunches with them. The discussions are free and open to the public.