Public Affairs at Alma
Alma’s Public Affairs Institute offers interdisciplinary experiences for students who, regardless of particular majors, have common academic and vocational interests in public affairs. The Institute is especially targeted on helping in-coming Alma students quickly engage with public issues and learn how to assume leadership in addressing local, national and international civic needs
The program includes opportunities to:
- Host international and national conferences
- Meet and work with visiting speakers
- Engage in service to the community (from local to global)
- Find meaningful internships, and
- Focus studies on public issues related to academic studies.
The program’s requirements are designed to be flexible and link to any major or minor, from Anthropology or Art to Women’s and Gender Studies. Participating in the classes and other programs of the Public Affairs Institute allows students to link their other studies to civic needs and concerns. As a result of participating in Public Affairs programs, both students and communities can benefit from shared learning.
Recent Public Affairs Fellows have gained admission to some of the best graduate and professional education programs in the world in fields such as public health, environmental policy and public affairs itself. Many of these graduates have won nationally and internationally awarded scholarships, including a number of Fulbrights.
How to get involved
Students interested in public issues are urged to apply to join the Public Affairs Institute before beginning classes at Alma. Applications are available from the College Admissions Office. Also, students are encouraged to visit campus and speak with Professor Lorenz or other faculty involved in Public Affairs.
How to Apply
Fill out the online Public Affairs Institute application. [Only available on line before April 1. Contact Dr. Lorenz at other times.]
While students not members of the Institute may enroll in Public Affairs classes, if there is space, students in the formal institute program begin with a Colloquium in the Fall Term of the First Year.
The Colloquium is designed to expose students to representative public issues related to a variety of disciplines in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences.
In recent years the colloquium has focused on:
- The Media and Elections
- Energy and Food Policy
- Health Policy
- Religion and Politics
- Changes in Working Conditions Around the World
- Terrorism and International Law
Colloquium students have organized forums on industrial agriculture, community sustainability, and election outcomes. They have provided research support for the local community advisory group for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2008 they hosted the Eugene Kenaga International DDT Conference, which brought medical and environmental experts from around the world to Alma. At the end of the DDT Conference, Dr. Lorenz and the other participants produced a “Consensus Statement” that has been published in Environmental Health Perspectives [May 2009]. Read an abstract [summary] of the consensus statement and see link to a free copy of the full statement. The consensus statement is important for challenging a lobbying campaign to increase use of DDT and other persistent organic pollutants. The significance of the conference also was noted by The Scientific American.
In April 2010 another group of Public Affairs sponsored a meeting at the Cencacle Retreat and Conference Center in Chicago focused on the relationship of the U.S. and the International Criminal Court. That conference brought together retired ambassadors, a retired general, and international law experts. The conference produced a document stating participants’ positions on the ICC and the crime of aggression that was presented by conference delegates to the Office of War Crimes at the U.S. Department of State.
Most recently, Public Affairs students hosted a conference in Washington, D.C. in December 2011 celebrating the 500th anniversary of the defense of universal human rights by Antonio de Montesinos. On December 4, 1511, in Santo Domingo, Montesinos, a Spanish Dominican priest, called for a change in Spanish colonial policy. His efforts launched a long campaign to recognize human rights of all people. The conference not merely celebrated Montesinos but brought together scholars and international law experts to consider where we have come in 500 years.
Only time will tell what other projects will engage Public Affairs students—immigration, human rights, border affairs, global pesticide policy, environmental sustainability, agriculture and food, democratization, peace. We are always in search of interested, hard-working students to work on these or other initiatives. We seek students of any major with an interest in using their skills and willingness to work to improve public affairs. See the descriptions of some specific Public Affairs programs on this website.
In addition to working on these common projects, individual Public Affairs students develop internships or practica with a public or private non-profit agency, design an independent study of a public topic of interest, and conclude with a senior seminar. Many Public Affairs students do one or more P-Global international leadership internships. One recent internship opportunity has been at the Mexican Consulate in Detroit. We support and invite PAF fellows to search for other internships related to their interests.