Meeting face-​​to-​​face with state law­makers and advo­cating for impor­tant leg­is­la­tion might not seem like the work of a typ­ical col­lege stu­dent. But that’s exactly what North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dents are learning as part of an Advo­cacy Work­shop this semester.

In the service-​​learning course — taught by Greg Goodale, assis­tant pro­fessor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies — stu­dents coor­di­nate with The Home for Little Wan­derers to advo­cate on behalf of foster chil­dren in Mass­a­chu­setts. The work­shop, in its second year, is a prime example of Northeastern’s sig­na­ture expe­ri­en­tial learning edu­ca­tion model. Stu­dents strengthen their com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, learn how to effec­tively lobby on behalf of issues, and dis­cover they can make a dif­fer­ence in the world.

Ear­lier this semester, stu­dents in the work­shop attended roughly three dozen meet­ings with rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors at the Mass­a­chu­setts State House in sup­port of two bills. One bill would require state agen­cies to ensure the edu­ca­tional sta­bility of foster chil­dren, while the other would ensure that sib­lings main­tain rights to see each other while either sib­ling is in foster care.

Meeting with rep­re­sen­ta­tives is nothing I ever expected to do in any col­lege class,” admitted Bart Fla­herty, a junior and com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies major. “It makes you feel more con­fi­dent. A lot of per­sonal growth hap­pens in this class.”

Impressed by his face-​​to-​​face meeting with the stu­dents, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Paul Mark, a freshman leg­is­lator and former stu­dent in Northeastern’s Law and Policy doc­toral pro­gram, vis­ited the class on Feb. 24, fielding ques­tions about his back­ground working on polit­ical cam­paigns — including those for Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Deval Patrick and Barack Obama — as well as the impact indi­vid­uals can have lob­bying for bills, par­tic­u­larly through per­sonal let­ters. Mark offered one lesson he learned during his own polit­ical stumping: “Don’t take an opinion you can’t defend.”

Mark praised the Advo­cacy Work­shop, noting that stu­dents can gain valu­able expe­ri­ence from meeting with leg­is­la­tors.” “This work­shop is a great model,” Mark said.

Later this month, the stu­dents also plan to meet with state sen­ator and North­eastern alumna Karen Spilka, L’80.

This has been eye opening for me in terms of what to expect when I grad­uate and what skills I should be devel­oping,” said Jay Altschuler, a senior and polit­ical sci­ence major.

Added junior Gar­rett Nut­tall, “It’s really given a tan­gible aspect to the fact that what I’m doing can make a difference.”