The federal government is hoping to connect more with college students by bringing Washington officials to campuses across the country in the coming months.
The new initiative, called “Your Future, Your Solutions: 100 Youth Strategies for Winning the Future,” was created by President Barack Obama to inspire young Americans to become more politically involved.
In a conference call with college journalists yesterday, White House officials announced the launch of the new program, which intends to encourage college students around the nation to host roundtable discussions to debate pertinent political issues and ideas for change. Roundtable hosts have the opportunity to submit information about their event on the White House website prior to their meetings to request the attendance of a government official and feedback on their discussion.
While government officials won’t always able to attend, Kalpen Modi, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, said during the conference call that regional administrators, Cabinet members, White House staffers and junior and senior administrative officials — including Obama — aim to attend 100 roundtable meetings.
Modi added that meetings will be selected based on the availability of government officials in the area, and hosts will typically be notified about 24 to 48 hours prior to the meeting if an official will be present. The Obama administration hopes to hear the ideas of many young Americans in the coming months, Modi said.
“The belief here, quite frankly, is that young Americans today are the most innovative, creative generation that we’ve ever seen,” Modi said. “You guys have inherited incredible challenges, and you’ve met them with really inspiring solutions.”
Earlier efforts by the administration to connect with American youth include a trip to Cleveland, Ohio where officials hosted an event last month that included a visit from Obama.
Justin Pierce, executive director of undergraduate student government at Kent State University, attended the event along with student and business leaders in the Cleveland area. Pierce said during the conference call that it was “a very productive meeting,” and after the event, Obama hosted a conference call with the students to continue talking about topics discussed at the roundtable.
“I was so honored to have had the chance to participate in a roundtable with other young leaders,” Pierce said. “It was an incredible and unforgettable experience to meet and talk with President Obama.”
Since the roundtable, Pierce said he has discussed the initiative with other students and made an effort to help his peers become more involved in national issues.
“Our generation sees a lot of negativity, and a lot of times we’re intimidated by it,” Pierce said. “We just need to become more informed and engaged, and this is the perfect opportunity to do that.”
While the administration suggests for a roundtable to include 10 to 15 participants for optimal conversation and productivity, groups of any size can be submitted to request attendance by an official or to get feedback.
LSA junior Brendan Campbell, former chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats and current MForward vice presidential candidate for the Michigan Student Assembly, said in an interview yesterday that he is looking forward to the prospect of hosting a roundtable on campus.
“I think this is an incredible opportunity,” Campbell said. “We know young people have great ideas about where our country is headed in the coming decade. I’m excited about creating forums where we can discuss these issues.”
-Daily News Editor Joseph Lichterman contributed to this report