Lawmakers in N.H., Vermont Turn to Students for Policy Research
When legislators need nonpartisan reports, Dartmouth students do the legwork.
It’s not unusual for politicians to turn to college students for help. More often than not, the work entails licking envelopes and answering phones -- not when you attend
Students working at the school’s
Legislators in those states have small staffs and tight budgets, so the idea was to offer them quality research on a pro-bono basis while giving students the opportunity to become involved in government. So far, the relationship has been a success.
Students in the center’s Policy Research Shop produce concise, non-partisan reports that answer specific questions, often about how other states are tackling issues facing New Hampshire or Vermont, says Ronald Shaiko, associate director of the
The students perform dress rehearsals of their testimony before presenting at the statehouse. By the time they reach the capital, Shaiko says, “they walk into the room knowing they know more about the topic than anyone else.”
In large states like
Rep. Laurie Harding, a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, says students at the shop have compiled reports for her office that examine biomass fuels, mental health and substance abuse insurance parity, and financial literacy assessments, among other subjects. Currently, students are preparing for Harding a report on “shared decision making,” a medical approach in which patients and health workers deliberate together to find the best treatment options.
“I respect the kind of work the students are able to do,” Harding told Governing. “They’ve been a gift.”
The program is funded through grants from the Ford Foundation and the Department of Education. The
The program also works with the
Shaiko says the research shop had had success turning students on to the idea of pursuing government service when they graduate -- a difficult task, considering