Students Participate in Civic Engagement

February 20, 2019

Students speaking to a community memberSitting in a large conference room, surrounded by city officials, Annie Hawkins ’19 and Emily Olague ’19, along with Professor of Political Science Andrew Dzeguze, presented the findings of their class research project—a survey of Whittier College students’ perception of the City of Whittier.

The research began last fall in Dzeguze’s public administration course. The goal of the project is to make connections and bridge the gap between Whittier students and the local community. 

“This survey project was an example of how we can integrate meaningful civic engagement experiences into our political science curriculum,” said Dzeguze. “Students learned about the value and proper use of qualitative research methods and data analysis such as interviewing, coding, and thematic analysis in the context of a real world public policy investigation.”

The research found that students want to have a closer connection to the city and city leaders were very interested in making changes and want to keep communicating with the campus. 

Kiara Binas ’21, one of the students in Dzeguze’s course, thinks it’s very important for students to have a voice in the community. She notes that even though students might not live on campus for the longest period of time, they might have an outsider’s point of view that can shed light into the future development of the city. 

City Council Member Henry Bouchot convened the meeting where Hawkins, Olague, and Dzeguze met with representatives of the Uptown Whittier Improvement Association (UWIA), the Whittier Uptown Association, and the Chamber of Commerce to provide an overview of their research results. “It was a wide ranging discussion and the students did an excellent job in representing Whittier College,” said Dzeguze. 

After the initial meeting, Hawkins and Olague were asked to participate in a town hall-style meeting with the UWIA to further the discussion and answer more questions from city representatives. Dzeguze hopes to keep the project going and will continue to encourage his students to be engaged with the community. “This type of access and input into governance is one of the things that makes Whittier a special place.”