Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Today we're lucky to have guest piece from Isabel Langlois, a University of Montana student and Newman Civic Fellow with Campus Compact. Thank you, Isabel!

Newman Civic Conference Fellows in Boston
In November 2017, with the support of the UM Civic Engagement Office, I was able to attend the Newman Civic Fellowship Conference in Boston, MA at the Edward Kennedy Institute. 

I took on the identity of a
Democrat from Colorado to debate the
controversial Farm Bill.
A few days were packed with elevator introductions, Farm Bill riders, and Ted Talks; beyond this, the Newman Civic Fellowship Conference in Boston Massachusetts was the gathering of motivated college students sharing stories of the organizing challenges, successes and the potential of our generation. One moment in particular demonstrated the engine of change that Newman Civic Fellows hold is when the President of Campus Compact, Andrew Seligsohn, asked those who were the first generation in their family to graduate stand up in a closing meeting. A moment later close to three quarters of the mock Senate floor in the Edward Kennedy Institute stood up, the others stood clapping in concert. We looked around relishing in the energy of cultural change that hover in this room. Moments like this seemed to roll in throughout the weekend.

A part of the Conference included free access to Ted Talks where we were able to listen to the first women astronaut in space. She discussed her mediocre skills playing the flute while showing footage of a concert with Jethro Tull; he played live in Germany and she floated through Space. Another resonating conversation included a local prosecutor from Boston discussing his story becoming a prosecutor, a powerful actor in the controversial issue of mass incarceration. A fellow student spoke about his desire as a young adult to become a lawyer for the profits, a required internship for his degree with a public defender, and a powerful lesson. After his
Newman Civic Fellows at the Kennedy Center for the U.S. Senate
internship with a local public defender, he described watching many people that looked like him being locked up over and over again; however, that he began to see the power of helping them through the prosecutor instead of the public defender. He went on to be a prosecutor in Boston, looking to keep people out of jail rather than putting them in; which he spoke of as redeeming the position. Many of the fellows were of mixed ethnicity and race, and the discussion, again, spoke to the struggles that seemed quite apparent to this audience.

The mock Senate floor in the Kennedy Institute
where Fellows would give speeches based
on which Senator we became for a mock Senate trial.
The Conference overall provided space for networking among students and worshiping with leadership skills as well. We crafted different ideas in how we would like to stay communicated, and have followed through with numerous. One in particular is sharing online petitions concerning important regional and national issues, and contacting one another about regional issues that could be misunderstood across the country. For example, a student in Utah and I discuss via email the differences among the framing of the Public Lands Transfer movement in Montana versus Utah. Currently, we share local ads and propaganda that frame the issue for locals differently between State, so as to understand how issues of importance differ among communities of our own country.  Another example, is students in the Southeast in particular wrote petition in support of The Dreamers and circulated them through the Fellow network. The Conference provided space to demonstrate to Fellows the engine of change possible through the youth of our nation. I left feeling confident in what others Fellows around the nation are doing for all of us, and energetic in addressing challenges in my own community.

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