The USD Department of Political Science’s Public Service Colloquium will return this year after a one-year hiatus. The department was unable to host the event in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The event allows political science and criminal justice students to present their final projects in front of an audience, which picks the best project based on criteria chosen by the department.
Julia Hellwege, assistant professor of political science at USD, started the event in the fall semester of 2017 with former USD professor Bridget Diamond-Welch. Hellwege said she started the event to give students an opportunity to share their work.
“Of course, we have IdeaFest in the spring,” Hellwege said. “But what I found in my first year is that students who do work in the fall are less likely to present in the spring, because it sort of organically fits with the spring semester, or they’ve forgotten about it, or they’re not in class with those people or with me anymore.”
Hellwege said the colloquium also works as an opportunity for an interdisciplinary event between the criminal justice and political science sides of the department.
“What really ties us together is public service,” Hellwege said.
Hellwege said past projects have included civic engagement projects from American Government students, humane society and food pantry groups, environmental groups and studies on rural brain drain. Intro to Political Science students present policy analyses that range from local to international.
“In our first iteration with Dr. Diamond Welch, she invited the chief of police to come and speak to students about what is the most prevalent issue in Vermillion, and he talked about underage drinking. And so students used criminological theories to explain the underlying factors of underage drinking and what kinds of solutions that we can come up with using those aspects,” Hellwege said. “We’ve been fairly interdisciplinary, but related to public service.”
Audience members at the event are given voting sheets with criteria to judge students’ presentations. Students who win best project have in the past been given gift cards to R-Pizza in Vermillion.
“It was very nice when Ally Feiner and Chloe Fullenkamp won, because normally, I’ve given them a gift card to R-pizza, for the group to share pizza together and their group won, and it was just the two of them,” Hellwege said. “That money went a much longer way for them.”
Hellwege said she’s excited to be able to hold the event this year, which will for the first time involve Intro to Political Science students. The event will also serve appetizers and desserts.
“I’m also trying to really ensure that we are bringing in more audience members, and so I think we’ve advertised a bit more,” Hellwege said.
Hellwege said that the event showcases how public service is about being a member of one’s community and doing one’s fair share.
“As someone who is engaged in community myself—I sit on city council—it’s also really rewarding to kind of share, I guess, both the ups and the downs of how challenging this is, but how rewarding it can be,” Hellwege said.
Hellwege said the best part of the event is allowing students to show off what they have learned and display their own expertise.
“There’s something really special about students presenting their own work and saying, ‘I did this,’” Hellwege said. “I think students, or freshmen in particular, are not used to or not ready at or don’t have the confidence yet to sort of think of themselves as experts in something. And I think this really gives them the opportunity to be the expert in the room.”
The Public Service Colloquium will be held on Monday, Nov. 22 from 5:30-6:45 p.m. on the second floor of the I.D. Weeks Library. The event is free and open to the public.