Dozens of state and local officials, political activists, journalists, nonprofit leaders, and other experts joined together on the Lincroft campus on March 23 for the first ever “Civics Education 2.0” Conference, organized by Brookdale’s new Center for Civic Engagement.
The program, title “Awareness, Advocacy, and Action: Empowering Effective Participation in our Political Process,” was designed to inform and involve local high school and college students in a wide range of contemporary political issues.
Throughout the day experts hosted hour-long panel discussions on a variety of topics, including women in politics, gerrymandering, the legislative agenda of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and a retrospective of the Trump Administration’s first year in office. The conference also featured keynote addresses by local performance artist Lorraine Stone, who spoke in character as famed abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, and former New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
“Right now we are seeing an awakening, especially among our younger voters,” said Brookdale associate political science professor and conference organizer Jonathan Moschberger. “Since the 2016 presidential election we have seen record numbers of women running for office and winning elected office. Now we are seeing students, whether it’s the ‘Dreamers’ or students advocating for school safety, really stepping up and getting involved in a much more active way.
“Our goal here today is to provide local students with the tools and get them equipped to play a more effective role in the process,” added Moschberger, who also serves as president of the New Jersey Political Science Association. “It’s far more than just registering to vote.”
Conference attendees included New Jersey State Sen. Vin Gopal and Rep. Eric Houghtaling; former state Supreme Court Chief Justice James R. Zazzali; reporters from the New York Times and Insider NJ; League of Women Voters of New Jersey Executive Director Jesse Burns; Georgian Court University President Joseph Marbach; Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute Patrick Murrary; Brookdale Vice President for Learning Matthew Reed; Director of the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship Ben Dworkin; community advocate Gilda Rogers; and current and former candidates for local and state political office, including recently elected 20-year-old board of education member Meagan Warner.
Students were also invited to an exclusive “after hours” conference, hosted by Gopal, Burns and area student activists, in which attendees were encouraged to air their opinions, ask questions and channel their energy into effective political action.
“College-age students can often be very passionate about a lot of things, but they may not necessarily know how to turn that passion into action,” said Brookdale History and Political Science Club President Elyse Hazel. “So I think it’s important that students are educated on the political process and the ways in which they can make their votes and their voices matter as much as possible.
“It’s also important to learn how to voice political opinions in a respectful way and to listen to others’ opinions, even when they conflict with your own,” she added. “Conferences like these really help bring people together, regardless of their political backgrounds. We are really proud to be a part of it.”
Learn more about Brookdale’s Political Science program here.
Check out more photos of the Civics Education 2.0 Conference here.