JWU students enrolled in the Political Science 1001 course recently presented Central Falls Mayor James Diossa and City Council President Robert Ferri with solutions to real challenges the city is facing. As Mayor Diossa and Ferri listened intently from the front row of the oak-paneled City Hall chambers, student groups addressed issues such as domestic violence, community building, education and abandoned buildings.
These presentations were the culmination of a term-long project that Kevin DeJesus, Ph.D., assitant professor, developed. The John Hazen White College of Arts & Sciences faculty member first invited Diossa to speak to his class in September. A few weeks later, the mayor returned for a question and answer session, where students asked the mayor about various issues affecting Central Falls. Students then worked in groups to research those topics and develop sample legislation for their final task in the project.
According to DeJesus, “pairing concepts with engagement” is a key teaching strategy he uses that allows students to learn by doing and to get experience in the field. As DeJesus puts it, “This is what faculty at JWU does. We want students to be all in. Students don’t come here to sit and listen to lectures. We want them to do politics and do political science.” Through this exercise, he says, students learned how to put legislation in place to bring about social and political change.
DeJesus is quick to compliment his students on their hard work. “The students were outstanding in their level of engagement with the questions and issues that faced Central Falls,” he says. “They did an outstanding job researching the data that they needed in order to present a viable suggested legislative approach to solving these problems.”
Diossa and Ferri also noted how thorough the students’ research was and asked several questions about the students’ proposed legislation. “The city council members that were here were really cordial and respectful,” says Aurora Musgrove '22. “It was nice to not feel like I was being patronized just because I was a student. Overall it was a really positive experience.”
For some students, the project has led to new opportunities. “Thia Lavahnna-Scott, Starr Hooper and I were all offered internships in the city by the mayor himself following our presentations,” says Jacob Tonseth ’22. He later found out the internship offer was also extended to his entire class. “Mayor Diossa was eager and willing to give everyone an opportunity. Overall I would call this exercise a success and I look forward to the opportunity to be involved in similar outreach actions in the future."
Some of the sample legislation drafted by students
Bill to restore Central Fall’s management of the public school system (Mackenzie Carroll,Yesenia Ramos, Cryystal White, Thevatharani Saththiyasiritharan)
Bill to establish a community center (Julie Correia, Sarah Olearnick, Starr Hooper, Tiah Scott)
Bill to help undocumented immigrants throughout Central Falls work legally (Lindsay Honsinger, Danny Keogh, Cristal Marcano)
Bill proposing a performing arts center for the City of Central Falls (Clark Outridge, Jack Johnson, Tia Maxwell, Franklyn Wray)
Bill to establish a center for cultural unity to help address domestic violence (Aurora Musgrove, Caitlyn Gilmore, Noelly Olvera)
Bill to address domestic violence through education and treatment of offenders (Emma Goldberg, Isabella Rolocut, Brianna Brewer, Dean Tricarico, Tyler Ellor)
Bill to repurpose and renovate abandoned mills for affordable living and small businesses (Jacob Tonseth, Samantha Dooley, Maximillian DeMazza, Cody French, Jose Diaz)
Bill to establish a performing arts center in Central Falls (Taya Morris, Isis Heyman)