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Political Players

Students learn first-hand about legislating

Hannah Murphy, ’25, recently traded life as a college student for that of a U.S. senator.  

Hannah, or Sen. Tammy Duckworth as she was known by attendees of a recent Model Senate program, participated in the legislative process alongside students from across the country who each portrayed a different senator.  

“It was a really good opportunity to get some practical experience and speak with other young people interested in politics,” said Hannah, who is majoring in political science (legal studies concentration) and English (literature concentration) at Bridgewater State University.  

Hannah, who is minoring in philosophy as well as philosophy, politics and economics, was among 10 BSU students who attended the Model Senate program at Stetson University in Florida. Stetson alumnus and former Bridgewater professor David Hill began taking Bridgewater students to the program more than 20 years ago. After a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BSU resumed sending students this year.  

Students prepared by researching their senator and prospective legislation. Once in Florida, they advocated for or against bills by taking the same positions their senator would – regardless of whether they agreed with those stances.  

“It gives students an opportunity in a setting not dominated by faculty to develop that ability to speak about politics spontaneously and build up that confidence in public speaking,” said Dr. Mark Kemper, a political science professor who now runs the program at BSU.  

Portraying moderate conservative Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Tyler Fowler, ’24, quickly became a key player in deal-making as senators from both sides of the aisle sought his vote.  

Serving on the Health, Legislation, Labor and Pensions Committee, Tyler helped pass a law designed to prevent teen dating violence. The full Senate ultimately approved the measure after it became part of a broader piece of legislation.  

“You definitely get a very thorough understanding of not only policy but debating and collaboration, as well as an understanding of how the Senate actually works,” said Tyler, a political science major (public administration concentration) who received an honorable mention award for best senator.  

Tyler and Hannah praised the program for making them better orators and listeners. BSU courses on public policy and constitutional law were particularly helpful during their trip to Florida, they said.  

“It gives students in a role-playing setting a way to experientially apply what they’re learning in the classes in terms of theory,” Kemper said.   

Hannah, who served on the Armed Services Committee, delved into issues such as aircraft fueling that she knew little about. But jumping into the unknown made the experience even more valuable.  

“Pushing yourself to do things you wouldn’t normally do is the point of college,” she said. “You don’t want to stay in a bubble.”  

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