Student involvement in politics focus of new institute at DSU

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A new institute was added over the summer after a recently hired Dixie State University faculty member noticed it was missing.

The DSU Institute of Politics and Public Affairs’ goals are to help increase voter registration at DSU, boost political involvement at DSU, have open discussions on policy and political issues, and provide students more opportunities to become civically engaged, said Nancy Hauck, associate provost of community and global engagement. 

Henrie Walton became part of the DSU faculty and works alongside Frank Lojko, vice president of government relations, as the community, state and federal relations officer for the university. 

Walton said he quickly realized DSU didn’t have a political center—a center which most universities have.

“We are looking to grow,” Walton said. “We are wanting to be a bigger part of the conversation in southern Utah, to work closely with a community, and engage with them civically.”

A proposal was submitted in 2015, an office opened on the fifth floor in the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons in January of 2016, and the board of regents officially approved the IOP May 22.

Walton is now the director of the IOP along with his previous title.

Three students are overseen by Walton on the IOP’s student committee: James Kener, a senior English major from Murray, as the student director, Cameron Carlson, a junior integrated studies major from Bountiful, as events coordinator, and Kimball Hafen, a sophomore nursing major from  Carmel, Indiana, as the second events coordinator. 

The IOP is working closely with Dixie State University Student Association to help get the institute off the ground before it will be completely independent. In fact, the IOP student council are also members of DSUSA.  

One of the main ways the IOP committee is hoping to achieve independence is with a bi-monthly event called Pizza and Politics. This event will be an open discussion generally on Thursday afternoons to discuss issues on the federal, state and local levels.

Carlson said they are trying to bring out the issues that impact DSU students the most.

“We want students to know and understand what is really going on around them, how it affects them, and that they can actually do something about it,” Carlson said.

Kener said he wants the discussions to be a place where all opinions can be expressed from the experienced and the not-so-experienced.

“My biggest goal for the institute is to get students involved and inform them [about political topics], so they can make decisions that will actually make a difference,” Kener said.

Other opportunities the IOP is providing are multiple voter registration drives, an early voters booth for the general election, and legislative internships. 

Walton said legislative internships look great on a resume for any major, not just political science majors. Not to mention, they are decently paid.

Three students did legislative internships at the state level for Utah and one student traveled to Washington D.C. in the prior school year. Walton said he wants that number will increase to four or five students at the state level and two to three at the federal level. 

Walton said he encourages all students to get involved in politics because civic engagement is an important influence on their future.

“The decisions that are being made now through voting are going to affect them later,” Walton said. “If they don’t take the chance now to be a part of the process, they are missing a huge opportunity to determine their future; instead somebody else will do it for them.”