SNU Students attend 'Making Democracy Happen' Conference

A normal week for the students of Dr. Rick Farmer’s Legislative Process course consists of gathering in what he refers to as the “two-toned classroom with blue trim” –the living room of his Bethany residence with unfinished walls and blue painter’s tape.

Recently, Dr. Farmer took his students beyond the two-toned classroom to Akron, Ohio. The Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron hosted the “Making Democracy Happen” conference in collaboration with the American Association of Political Consultants on October 11th and 12th.

Southern Nazarene’s Political Science department sent four students, including Seniors Breanna Little, Christina Gregory, Keenan Garrett, and Freshman Bethany Prentice, all of whom are majors or minors of political science. Through the efforts of the Bliss Institute the students’ flight, hotel, meals and entry into the conference were all covered with nominal cost to the students. The students had a chance to go sightseeing in downtown Cleveland prior to the conference, taking pictures in the historic Public Square, outside the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, and by Lake Erie.

The educational conference brought together students, academics, professional consultants, and political reporters from a long list of institutions. The two days consisted of seminars with professionals who spoke on concepts dealing with modern campaigning. Dr. Farmer served as a panelist in one seminar relating to ethics in campaigns.

Farmer is a fellow at the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics having once been a tenured professor at the University of Akron, he is also a Henry Toll Fellow at the Council of State Governments, co-author and editor of many publications including three books with another on the way, and has a long history of conference participation and media appearances on leading outlets such as NBC, MSNBC and CNN. Dr. Farmer is currently the Director of Committee Staff at the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

In addition to teaching at SNU Farmer is teaching a similar legislative process course at Akron via live video conferencing from Oklahoma City. The SNU students had a chance to meet Dr. Farmer’s Akron University graduate and undergraduate students in a joint class session.

A mentoring luncheon was offered to students interested in careers in applied politics that gave them the opportunity to hear from seasoned political advisors, including Dr. Farmer’s former student Jim Crooks. Crooks offered insight from the standpoint of an elected city official, part-time political science professor, and CEO and founder of the JC Power Company that offers advice in communications campaigns.
SNU student Bethany Prentice discussed aspects of religion and politics with the director of the Bliss Institute and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Akron, Dr. John Green. Green specializes in how religion affects American politics and has co-authored several books. Prentice received a complimentary autographed copy of his latest book The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections. Dr. Green, a United Methodist, is regularly consulted on American politics by such media publications as the New York Times, Newsweek, and Time, and is a contributing editor for beliefnet.com.

Overall, the conference gave the students insight into the modern issues of political campaigning, beginning with the topic of old media and new media presented by traditional journalists and bloggers and concluding with professional analysis of how presidential campaigns operate.

With a veteran instructor of the political process, such as Dr. Rick Farmer, a published author, a sought after analyst, an influential staff member in the Oklahoma state legislature, and someone with an accessible network of other political professionals, the students of Southern Nazarene University’s History and Political Science Department can expect more exciting and educational opportunities to arise.