Political Engagement

Brad McMillan, executive director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service, works with high school students during a congressional simulation.

By Matt Hawkins
November 6, 2013

Students from six area high schools navigated the political landscape at a Congressional Insight challenge hosted by the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service. The computer simulation forced students’ teams to grapple with real-life scenarios to govern and win re-election.

“For a lot of students, politics is something they really aren’t familiar with,” IPL Executive Director Brad McMillan said. “The real-life computer simulation gives them insight as to what it would be like to be a member of congress.”

Students faced questions about party leadership and public legislation. They also had to determine how congressmen divided time between home districts and Capitol Hill. Media headlines, opinion polls and constituent feedback guided the decision-making process throughout the simulation.

“This was eye-opening,” said student Nate Elder. “It was interesting to see how congressmen live their daily lives.”

Teams were required to digest scenarios, analyze data and determine the best option within a matter of minutes. This fast-paced activity simulated the complex, time-sensitive nature of real-life politics.

“I learned how to make quick decisions,” said student Jessica Hemmer. “It’s a good exercise because of what it’s like to think of all the different aspects of decisions an their results.”

Beyond the fast-paced decisions and teamwork required to navigate the challenge, the day was a chance for IPL to think about lives in public service.

“I hope this sparks interest for those that have an interest in public service,” McMillan said. “We hope getting engaged in an activity like this fuels a fire that makes them more interested in going down that path.”

IPL intern Megan Ramlo ’14 organized the event and found it a valuable tool for her future career as a high school history educator.

“Civic engagement is something I’m passionate about,” she said. “To be hands-on with it is something I value. I can bring ideas from this into the classroom and make it memorable for students.” 

The IPL’s mission is to develop outstanding public service leaders and promote good government practices at the national, state and regional levels.