Students Shaping Public Policy and the Future

Students pursuing a public policy minor spend most of their time outside the classroom consulting with city, regional, and state policy planners about ways to address some of today’s most critical issues—energy conservation, transportation congestion, climate, and environmental health. Last quarter, students in Alan Wiseman’s public policy course learned firsthand the challenges involved in designing a sustainable (green) city and transporting locally grown food to urban markets.

“Dr. Wiseman's class was a wonderful opportunity to see how everything we had been learning actually applied to the real world,” said student Marissa Burik.

Wiseman, associate professor of political science and director of the public policy minor, reached out to the City of Columbus and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) in 2007. During winter quarter, students worked with the City of Columbus to assess programs related to environmental sustainability, and with MORPC to identify ways to increase the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of locally grown food.

“There is no better way for students to learn how to formulate public policy than to work with those who develop the rules and regulations,” said Wiseman. “Our partnership with the city and MORPC allowed students to get in on the ground floor of the process.

A view of downtown Columbus from the river.Students collaborated with Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and the staff of the city’s Get Green campaign to explore ways to enhance the city’s rankings in sustainability and green initiatives. Using two national benchmarking systems that evaluate environmental initiatives across cities, Smarter Cities and SustainLane, students analyzed Columbus’ strengths and deficiencies in transitioning to a more “green” city and provided city officials with a set of recommendations to improve the city’s sustainability.

Students working with MORPC conducted a nationwide assessment of food systems and identified ways that the central Ohio region can produce more of its own food and ensure that locally produced food is easily accessible to people of all income levels.

The course was fast-paced and expectations were high,” said student, Darci Mossbarger. “Working outside of the traditional classroom helped me better understand the quality of work necessary and demands of policy in the real world.”