Ayana Smith-Kooiman during a simulation at the State Capitol

Professor Michael Zis
City partner: Minnesota State Capitol
Distance from campus: 4.7 miles

Course Description
This course explores legislative politics through a combination of academic theory and focused field experiences. Each student must simultaneously enroll in a credit-bearing internship at the Minnesota State Legislature. The class examines the basic structures, players and forces that shape legislative decision-making, the motivation or individual legislators, and their interactions with other political actors and institutions.

What do you hope students will learn?
“The big goal is for students to learn about the legislative process, in what they observe day-to-day in their work at the Capitol, in comparing what they observe to the political science literature on the legislative process, and as part of a simulation on the Minnesota House Floor in which each plays a legislator in ‘Legisota.’”

What projects are you doing in the city?
“Students work 10 to 15 hours a week at the State Capitol, either for a Minnesota state representative or state senator or in the Governor’s Office.”

Kaitie Brown ’22
(Lincoln, Neb.)
Political science major

“In my internship with Senator Matt Klein (DFL) of District 52, I respond to constituent phone calls and emails. I also track bills to monitor how they change throughout the session and if they are ultimately successful. Working in the legislature is so much different than I thought it would be. The environment is full of energy. I think a lot of people (including myself) have felt like politicians never get anything done. But being able to participate in the process has helped me to realize that that just isn’t the case.

The Minnesota House Floor is sacred ground with specific rules, so it was a big deal that we got to use it. In the simulation, I play the role of Majority Leader for the red party. As someone who doesn’t identify with red politics, it’s been interesting to personify that mindset and put forward that legislation. What has perhaps been the most valuable part of this class is seeing the theories and hypotheses that you read in textbooks play out in real life in your internship.”

Ayana Smith-Kooiman ’22
(Janesville, Wis.)
Political science major

“As a policy intern at the Governor’s Office, I attend committee meetings and take notes. Working at the Capitol, you realize that everyone’s human and most legislators do care and want to create policies that help people. It’s the politics and partisanship that seem to get in everyone’s way.

The floor simulation is a memory that I’ll cherish. Representatives Hornstein and Dehn walked us through the process of what happens on the floor during the session. The man who calls out the bills during floor sessions helped make the experience as authentic as possible. We sat at the desks and used the mics and voting box to cast votes on bills and amendments we had created. We debated the language and the constitutionality of these bills and then cast votes. It was super cool.”

April 7 2020

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