Professor teaches class at Statehouse

March 9, 2012

It's not the usual Indiana State University classroom.

Carved wood paneling, heavy wooden doors with brass knobs and brass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling imbue this room with a sense of formality and presence of power. Missing are the white boards, overhead projectors and rows of desks.

But for the spring 2012 semester, Matthew Bergbower, assistant professor of political science, has taught a special class on Monday evenings in room 233 at the Indiana Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis. His students come from universities across the state, including ISU, and all work as interns for state senators and representatives.

"The instructor for that class rotates year-to-year and Indiana State University's turn came up this year and I was the lucky one to teach the class," Bergbower said.

In the class on Indiana politics, Bergbower discusses current events, the issues being debated, such as Right to Work, as well as background on historical matters related to Indiana.

"I want to give them a good base knowledge on how the state's historical aspect is run, how we should change our laws, good public policy, exploring avenues for getting good public policy," he said. "I want to get some kind of foundation in there so that over the long term they can independently think and independently address solutions to public policy concerns that we may have in the future."

ISU senior Trent Fox took his first class from Bergbower at the Statehouse while working as an intern this spring.

"He molds it around what's going on," said the legal studies major. "It's the history of Indiana politics, why we are who we are and what's led to this."

Two years ago, Bergbower joined the faculty at ISU to teach state and local government, including a class on Indiana politics at the Terre Haute campus.

"Coming here, interacting with some of the members of the general assembly, seeing some of their staff, seeing the process work firsthand every Monday, is a nice opportunity for me, as well, to refresh myself on the current debates and the current processes seen in state government," he said.

Bergbower came to ISU with an insider's knowledge of state government after working for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. In 2009 and 2010, he interacted with the members of the Illinois General Assembly and assisted constituents in downstate Illinois while he specialized in rural affairs, public transportation and corrections.

"It wouldn't be surprising if some members of the Statehouse internship program here didn't address some of the same concerns that I addressed working for Gov. Quinn," Bergbower said. "So we can have a dialogue, the students and I, about working day-to-day in the state politics."

That working in state politics has turned into a full-time position for Fox, who during his internship was hired as a legislative assistant for Rep. Suzanne Crouch, Rep. Sue Ellspermann and Rep. Tim Brown. Fox also plans to start law school in the fall.

"If you're interested in anything political, this is the hub for it," said Fox, about the internship program. "This is a crash course in how things work and you can meet a lot of people."

Bergbower called the internship experience "wonderful" for the students.

"Possibly for them, their first experience is with lifetime and public service employment and that's got to be a rewarding experience," he said. "They can know for sure whether they want to get into this line of work and recognize the rewards that it could have if they do choose to go into this field."

State and local government work influences Indiana and Terre Haute residents through a myriad of ways, including income taxes, education and public parks.

"I think state and local government does impact individual lives possibly more so than what they probably think," Bergbower said. "You could go on and on about the responsibilities the state and local government have over our day-to-day lifestyles, every day Americans, every day Hoosiers."

Photos: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Statehouse-intern-class-2012/i-W6SB4QG/0/L/022812indystatehouseinternclas-L.jpg
Matthew Bergbower inside the Indiana Statehouse. ISU Photo/Tony Campbell

http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Statehouse-intern-class-2012/i-q8Sg2GD/0/L/022812indystatehouseinternclas-L.jpg
Trent Fox. ISU Photo/Tony Campbell

http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Statehouse-intern-class-2012/i-V8gk63N/0/L/022812indystatehouseinternclas-L.jpg
Matthew Bergbower speaks to students at the Statehouse. ISU Photo

Contact: Matthew Bergbower, Indiana State University, assistant professor of political science, at 812-237-2518 or Matthew.Bergbower@indstate.edu

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or Jennifer.Sicking@indstate.edu