OSEPI - The Ohio Student Education Policy Institute

OSEPI group photo



The Ohio Student Education Policy Institute
                University of Cincinnati

In October 2011, the University of Cincinnati was invited to participate in the second annual Ohio Student Education Policy Institute, a three-month statewide program centrally coordinated by the Ohio College Access Network (OCAN) designed to elevate the voice of college students, providing a platform in the legislature to affect education policy.

The Institute is a hands-on experience in public policy-making, providing college students real exposure to issues, the public-policy making process, experts in public policy, issues of economic access to education and the workforce, legislators, and ultimately a platform to express and magnify their voice. Throughout the three-month period, the real work is driven by each of the student teams. Students organize themselves on each participating campus to meet regularly, study the issues, and work to democratically try out and test solutions, reaching consensus upon a set of solutions, working with faculty and/or staff advisors. The teams are coached on how to construct and ultimately present thorough, evidence-based reasoning to back up their policy recommendations.

The initial recruitment of University of Cincinnati students began with those enrolled in the University Honors Program through a weekly listserv email communication, although invitations were also extended to students outside of the UHP. Interested students were required to complete a comprehensive Participant Application complete with a one-page essay. After several informational meetings and application submissions, UC confirmed nine student participants, enrolled in varying degree programs across campus and including first-year to graduate students. Mark Kohan, School of Education faculty member, and Betsy Macke, Student Services Center Academic Advisor, were designated as the faculty/staff advisors for this group.

Once the nine UC student participants were identified, weekly meetings were held during which the students formed themselves into teams addressing two different issues: (1) Minority Admissions Processes in Higher Education and (2) Workforce Development as it relates to post-secondary pathways.

From January-April 2012, both teams of students focused intently on examining current public policy in relation to their selected topics and began the process of forming creative policy recommendations that present cost-savings and result in some form of increased college completion and successful workforce entry.

Team UC traveled to Columbus, Ohio for the two-day Policy Institute Summit event in April, 2012, where each participating team from the state presented their findings and recommendations to each other in a caucus format. UC’s team focused on Workforce Development was one of two teams selected to present to legislators on Capitol Square and, in particular, to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee on day two of the Summit.

In addition, each of UC’s teams spent the second day of the event meeting with state agencies and legislators to present their policy recommendations in the hope of gaining traction in the state Capitol. Students met with a representative from Governor John Kasich’s office, members of the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Third Frontier Commission, and Senator Eric Kearney, among others.

Upon conclusion of the Policy Summit, the students were inspired to continue refining their policy recommendations and connecting with legislative contacts. Our teams chose to share their findings and experiences at the 4th Annual University of Cincinnati Diversity Conference as well as the 2012 Undergraduate Conference.

UC’s participation in the second Ohio Student Education Policy Institute was a tremendous success and wonderful learning opportunity for the nine student participants. We look forward to recruiting students for next year’s event and to continue showcasing the University’s best and brightest.

-Betsy Macke

To read one student’s perspective on the Institute, visit http://osepi.blogspot.com/