MSU program gives political newbies a head start

Aug 8, 2012

When a person decides to enter politics, they may be a little lost about how get their foot in the door. They might not know what holding office really requires.

The Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University works to help up-and-comers get a handle on the world of politics.

Anne Mervenne is Co-Director of the Michigan Political Leadership Program. She tells Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White the program helps people develop a greater understanding of the legislative process so they can be prepared to run for office and keep their job once they’re in office.

And, more importantly, she hopes it provides students with the ability to work together to solve problems.

During the course of 10 weekends, Mervenne says the curriculum covers, “how to raise money, how to communicate, how to do a radio interview and a television interview, as well as we do mock sessions on the state budget to talk about where the future of Michigan is going. We expose them to current political leaders currently holding office.”

The program is considered to be multi-partisan with Republicans, Democrats and Independents who participate.

“We may bring in a Republican thought leader to share the podium with a Democrat, and they frequently agree on where the future of Michigan is going. It’s just how do we get there?” she said.

Mervenne says after a person is elected and hits the political arena, there are always interest groups that will pull on legislators to vote a certain way, and that's where disagreements come in. One example she points to is the Ambassador Bridge controversy.

“The International Bridge Company led by Matty Moroun is running lots of ads, making lots of political donations, putting a lot of pressure on legislators to go one way, and Governor Snyder wanting a new bridge, pushing legislators another way,” she said.

Mervenne says in the last two years, her program has focused its curriculum on “evidence-based public policy,” she said, “and an emphasis at looking at the data: what does the data tell us, and what role does data have on driving decision-making in a political process.”