How I Spend My Wednesday Evenings

There are two main reasons why I love living in this “college town”:

  1. I get to tailgate and cheer on the BC Football team each fall (Go eagles!); and
  2. There are tons of free lectures, events, and opportunities for intellectual growth.

This past Wednesday evening, my roommate, Brooke, and I ventured to our first class at Northeastern University. We found our way to West Village F, descended the stairs into the lecture hall, and pulled out our notebooks. I felt a deep nostalgia for that “first day of school” energy. The thing is, we’re not actually matriculated in a program at Northeastern.

The Choice: Election 2016

Each semester, Northeastern University hosts the Myra Kraft Open Classroom Series. It’s free and open to the public, and was established in memory of Myra Kraft. The course this semester is titled “The Choice: Election 2016.” It’s held on Wednesday evenings from 6:00PM-8:00PM in West Village F, Room 20. It started last Wednesday, September 7, and runs through December 7. Even if you missed the first class, you can still come!

The lead faculty is really what sold me on the class. Once I heard it, I thought, “YES! This is exactly how I want to spend my Wednesday evenings.” Here it is:

  • The Honorable Michael Dukakis, distinguished professor of Political Science at Northeastern University, former Governor of Massachusetts, 1988 Democratic nominee for President of the United States, and Brookline resident (For more info about Governor Dukakis, check out my recent post about the health policy forum in Brookline)
  • Christopher Bosso, professor of public policy and director of the Master of Public Policy at Northeastern University

Each week, there’s a panel of professors speaking on a different topic. The first hour of the first class was lecture. The second hour had a Q&A format.

What are the Choices?

As Professor Bosso explained last week,  the class is meant to be an exploration of the upcoming election. He introduced the course with a few guiding questions:

  • Where are we?
  • How did we get here?
  • What are the choices?
  • How do we look at the choices?

Clearly, this election season has been….different. Personally, I spend a lot of time thinking what it all means and what my role is in promoting a healthy democracy. The more I learn, the more questions I have. I hope this class will provide an academic framework to think productively, rather than emotionally, about the political reality today. Through this class, we’ll get to hear from experts in the field, and we’ll all unpack it together.

Up until November 8th, the class will focus on the election, candidates, and issues. After November 8th, we’ll study President Obama’s legacy.

Paths to the Nomination

Each week, there will be a panel of experts. Last Wednesday, we heard from Dr. Rachael Cobb, Associate Professor and Chair of the Suffolk University Department of Government, Dr. William Mayer, Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University, and Governor Dukakis.

First, Dr. Cobb taught us about the Democratic Party’s nomination process and how Hillary Clinton was nominated. Next, Dr. Mayer spoke about the Republican Party’s nomination process and how Donald Trump was nominated. Lastly, Governor Dukakis offered some reflections and observations about the nomination processes and why he thinks Americans overall are unhappy.

Among other topics, we learned about: the history of primaries in the U.S., the value of endorsements, the “invisible primary” (prior to the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary), the history of business people in politics, the consequences of unpopular party leadership, celebrities in politics, bias in press coverage, and candidate field size. Professor Cobb showed us some endorsement data from fivethirtyeight.com and Professor Mayer passed around a handout about, “Who Voted for Whom in the 2016 Republican Primaries.”

The Q&A session was interesting, too. Northeastern students and members of the broader public posed very insightful questions about third party candidates, political rhetoric, and unsuccessful candidates. It’s uplifting to witness other people, particularly young students, caring so much about the political process.

The Semester Ahead

As I’m writing this, I’m getting excited for class #2 tonight: The Economy, Jobs, and Opportunity. I wonder if political scientists are thinking differently about the economy than they were when I was in college a couple years ago. Next week will be about globalization and the age of migration. For a complete schedule and to read more about the topics and professors, check out this page.

I know that not all of my wonderful readers live in Brookline or Boston and can attend this lecture series. But, other colleges have classes that are open to the public as well. Visit your closest university’s course listing or calendar. There may be open lectures about the election. Moreover, there are a plethora of online free courses, through platforms like EdX. For one, Harvard has some free online classes about the election, which you can find here. If you find any good classes near you, let me know so I can share them with other readers.

This class seems very promising. I may be out of college, but I still get to spend my Wednesday evenings in class and my Saturdays watching football. Not too bad!