New think tank focuses on local policy issues
Some College of William and Mary students pursuing careers in policymaking are aiming to get a head start on their training through the new campus chapter of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network.
Classified as a progressive think tank, the Network is the student arm of the Roosevelt Institute, a nonprofit organization founded upon the legacy of former President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. According to the Network’s website, the organization works to “foster debate and dialogue on campus, teach policy courses, engage with local policymakers, generate policy, and promote student ideas through conferences and publications.” The College chapter plans to establish stronger ties to the local community to collaborate on policy.
“The umbrella objective of this organization and every Roosevelt chapter across the country is to positively influence policy development and implementation,” founding member Ishan Bardhan ’13 said. “We’re not going to be lobbying Congress for anything; our objective is to make a positive difference in the Williamsburg community.”
Since the chapter’s founding last fall, meetings of the think tank revolved around the introduction of a single issue followed by discussion.
The leadership decided a better approach this semester would be to make the organization more student-centered, allowing members to focus on their own policy interests.
“A kind of way we’re going to do it differently this semester is we’re going to break up in the fall semester to focus on getting students to join our think tank to give them an opportunity to craft policies in their smaller groups within our campus think tank,” President Dan Hartranft ’13 said. “That’s the blueprint of what our meetings and our work is going to be.”
The national organization offers publishing opportunities through six annual journals, each covering a distinct policy area. According to Hartranft, many students interested in joining the chapter want to focus on economic policy.
“At first I thought that was going to pose a problem, but … it could be quite easy because there are so many different issues that could fall under the economy that people would be interested in and that they could tackle and write policy on,” Hartranft said.
Despite the chapter’s modest history and size, many of its leaders have deep interests and experience in public policy. Hartranft, for example, spent the spring semester in the W&M in Washington program working with think tanks, while Bardhan spent this past summer as a D.C. Summer Institutes Fellow with a nonprofit.
“This club is relatively unique in the fact that it does give students an opportunity to not only discuss their policy interests, but to actually draft proposals, to actually put those proposals on paper, to actually have those proposals published,” Bardhan said. “The thing about these small organizations that are trying to get established is there will be a lot of opportunities for folks to take charge, folks to have positions of leadership, and I think that’s a great, great opportunity.”