Two student representatives of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, juniors Rini Sampath and Luke Phillips, attended “Bipartisan Advocacy: Finding Common Ground,” a conference hosted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics this past weekend that focused on civic engagement and bipartisan advocacy and featured top national political practitioners.
The Harvard Institute of Politics, part of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, aims to expose undergraduate students to academics, activists and policymakers in the hopes that the students will consider careers in politics and public service.
“This conference really taught us practical ways that we can spur bipartisan dialogue on our campus,” said Sampath, who serves as the Undergraduate Student Government vice president.
USC is a member of the Harvard Institute of Politics’ National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement, a consortium of 25 colleges and universities that aims to engage the millennial generation in improving communities through collaboration and public service. At the conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sampath and Phillips joined four dozen other National Campaign Ambassadors to formulate plans to address relevant policy issues in their home communities and on their campuses.
Speakers at the event included leading professionals with expertise in campaign and issue advocacy, government, and communications, including Dan Glickman, a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center; Steven Olikara, the co-founder and president of the Millennial Action Project; and Mark McKinnon, co-founder of No Labels, a nonprofit organization that aims to achieve bipartisan political action.
After returning to campus from the intensive training conference, Sampath and Phillips will use the skills they acquired at the Harvard Institute of Politics to implement advocacy plans through the Unruh Institute’s campus network, which combines the academic study of politics with practical field experience.
“Luke [Phillips] and I look forward to working with as many organizations as possible to bring the ideas discussed at Harvard to life at USC,” Sampath said. “Some issues aren’t specific to one political party. The beauty of bipartisan advocacy is valuing action and productivity over party alliances.”
Sampath and Phillips were selected for the conference by the Unruh Institute based on their academic achievement and demonstrated leadership on campus.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to further develop their leadership skills and interact with some of the nation’s foremost political engagement experts,” Unruh Director Dan Schnur said.
“I came out of the conference with the renewed realization that — for better or for worse — our millennial generation will have a far deeper influence on the future trajectory of this country than any of us can now imagine,” Phillips said. “After attending the conference, I see that we need to open up a dialogue about what kind of country we want our kids to inherit, because that’s the country we will create in our lifetimes.”