Local politicos teach on campus
September 08, 2011
Most days, they are advocating for assistance for their constituents, helping journalists understand important issues, or preparing for meetings about the state of the Massachusetts economy. But an enthusiastic cadre of accomplished Massachusetts politicos have also been spending time at Emerson over the past several semesters as adjunct faculty in the College’s Communication Studies Department.
“Boston is the center of New England politics and the Massachusetts State House is right at Emerson’s doorstep,” said Communication Studies Department Chair Richard West. “I’d be crazy not to try to get these kinds of people, with real-life experience in the jobs our students aspire to have someday, to teach here.”
State Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein (left) is pictured with Communication Studies Chair Richard West when she was on campus to accept the Walter Littlefield Distinguished Speaker in Rhetoric and Communication Award in 2009. She brings her experience in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to a class she teaches at Emerson called Argument and Advocacy.
Those teaching courses for students majoring in Political Communication: Leadership, Politics and Social Advocacy include: Kathi-Anne Reinstein, MA ’97, a Massachusetts state representative from Revere and the Second Assistant Majority Leader of the House; Alex Goldstein, press secretary for Governor Deval Patrick; Rick Musiol, chief of staff to the president of the Massachusetts Senate; and Alice Moore, legal counsel to the Massachusetts Senate. Also teaching at Emerson are Malia Lazu ’99, a social justice advocate and leader from MIT’s Community Innovators Lab, and Jeff Bellows, MA ’02, a private industry government and community relations professional.
“They aren’t just teaching politics, they are contextualizing politics within the Emerson mission, and that’s a rare find,” said West of the Political Communication adjunct faculty. “They’re able to bring theory to life through what they experience every day.”
Goldstein, who has held a host of communication positions in government and politics, said he teaches his course in a way he would have wanted it taught to him when he was in college, giving students as much hands-on experience as possible. “You can only learn my job by doing it,” he said. During each session of his course, called Politics, Social Advocacy, and the Political Campaign, Goldstein provides details of an issue he dealt with in his job that week, and explains the decision he made. The class then analyzes his decision and discusses why it worked or didn’t work.
Last semester, Goldstein even brought his class to the Governor's office to meet with the man himself. “They had the opportunity to sit with [Governor Patrick] for a half-hour and ask him whatever was on their minds. It was a great way to end the semester,” he said.
Rick Musiol, chief of staff to Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray, also exposes his students to an impressive group of Massachusetts leaders. “I’m glad to be able to put the network that I’ve developed over a decade of public service to use for Emerson students,” he said. “Giving them the opportunity to meet with real leaders is a great experience for them as they look toward their future careers.” Among the people Musiol has brought into his class, called Leadership, are Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, former Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, and leaders from Massachusetts hospitals and private industry.
Reinstein, who teaches Argument and Advocacy, gears her course not just toward government, but to the advocacy that goes on outside government. “A lot of what I do, even in my district, is the advocacy part, trying to help get a grant for children who live below the poverty line or dealing with gang issues,” said Reinstein. “There’s a stigma to the word ‘lobbyist,’ but even great organizations like the Boys and Girls Club have people working for them who do advocacy. I bring that into class, introducing the students to some of the best advocates I know who work on issues like housing, [heating assistance], and domestic violence.”
West plans to continue to tap the political leaders in the region to grow the Communication Studies political adjunct faculty cohort. “We will always work toward getting our students both the theoretical and the practical,” he said. “And as long as we have experts in the Boston area who wish to bring their work life into the classroom, our program will continue to soar.”