A few weeks ago, students from Professor Robin Johnson’s Parties and Elections class took a field trip to the state capitol in Springfield. Johnson has taken students to Springfield nearly every semester since he arrived at Monmouth in 2000. The trip usually involves visiting the Gallery of either the Illinois House of Representatives or the Illinois Senate, where they get to talk to legislators, staff, lobbyists, journalists, or other stakeholders in the legislative process. Also, as part of the trip students get to visit the ornate, old Supreme Court room in the Capitol, the press room, and the blue room, where news conferences are held.
The class studies the fundamentals of political parties and elections. This semester, students from the class were able to work for one of the two candidates seeking the State Senate seat that includes the Monmouth area.
It may be difficult to rely on the unpredictable schedules of legislators, but Prof. Johnson said it makes sure they meet with as many people as they can, even if that means having a student text one of his contacts during the ride to Springfield. “It’s one thing to study these concepts in class and through reading texts but it’s another to directly engage with participants in the process,” he said. “Most students are surprised to see how things really work.”
While visiting Springfield, students met with two recent Monmouth alums who joined the Illinois Legislative Staff Internship Program. Other Monmouth alums have gone on to work for both parties and both houses of the General Assembly. “We were told that Monmouth is “overrepresented” in the program compared with other colleges and universities in the state,” Johnson said, “which is a point of pride for me, the Political Science Department, and the college.”
Anita Gandara, a student in the class, said “I went to Springfield in elementary school, but it was exciting to see everything from a political science perspective.” After seeing Monmouth alums finding jobs in the state legislature, Gandara said that the trip “opened my eyes to potential future career opportunities.”
Johnson said that his political science classes will make this trop to the state capitol again. “We are truly sending tomorrow’s leaders to Springfield to positively impact our state,” he said.
Jacob Duncan – Staff