Syracuse University

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Prospective first-year students present ideas on improving their own communities through public policies

April 21, 2011

Sara Miller
(315) 443-9038

On Saturday, April 30, 85 of Syracuse University’s prospective first-year students will present their ideas on public policies that can improve their community at the 65th annual Maxwell Citizenship Scholarship Conference, sponsored by the Public Affairs Program in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and The College of Arts and Sciences. The participants have applied and been accepted for admission in the fall 2011 semester. The top 25 students in the competition will win a total of $224,000 in scholarships. 

The event will take place from 9 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Morning sessions will take place in Maxwell and Eggers halls. 

All admitted students were offered the opportunity to submit a three-page public policy proposal to competition director William D. Coplin, professor of public affairs and chair of the public affairs program. After the papers were read, 90 finalists were designated to attend the conference.   

The local public policy memos sought to improve society in a variety of ways. Local policies suggested by students included sustainability initiatives, economic development, suicide prevention, protecting the beaches in tourist areas, reducing traffic accidents, improving health practices and helping students get more out of their high school education. 

The policy memos, which are graded prior to the conference, must recommend a local government action that the students think should be considered. Based on the quality of their policy memos, students are invited to attend the conference as finalists in the competition. Of the 143 papers submitted, 90 finalists were notified of their opportunity to attend the conference on April 30. 

The paper and conference theme is designed to stimulate interest in local communities and local public policies. “Our school and college curricula do not cover local governmental policies as much as federal and international policies,” says Coplin. “The conference theme seeks to reward those students who are able to come up with ideas at the local level. Local government has the biggest impact on most people’s lives and is where most people can have the biggest impact on government policies.” Many of the students who submitted policy memos were already working on changes in their community before they knew of the scholarship competition. 

Scholarships are awarded according to a system that weighs equality and policy memos and conference participation. The policy memos are graded by Coplin using the standards employed in his freshman course. A peer scoring system, which measures the degree to which members of the conference see each other as leaders, constitutes the other 50 percent. The student with the highest score will be awarded an annual scholarship of $5,000. The second-highest scorer will receive a $4,000 annual scholarship and the third-highest scorer will receive a $3,000 annual scholarship. The next 22 highest scorers will win $2,000 annual scholarships. 

The Public Affairs Program is the only all-undergraduate degree program in either the Maxwell School or The College of Arts and Sciences. The program aims to provide undergraduates with professional skills through research and community service. Undergraduates learn by providing services and products of value to nonprofit and governmental agencies through the Community Benchmark Program, the Community Link Program, the 3CSkills Collaborative and the Community Service Program.

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