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European Political Challenges Played out in Classroom Debate


Students in Professor of Government Sharon Rivera’s introductory comparative politics class  participated in a mock parliamentary debate on April 3 as part of a semester-long simulation staged in the fictional country of West Europa.  This experiential learning project is a simulated election campaign in which students work cooperatively in groups to organize political parties, draft party platforms, design party logos, produce original campaign ads, plan and stage media campaigns, and prepare for a public debate. The fictional parties participating in the debate were the National Unity Party, Unbowed Democratic Socialists, Centrist Party, New Democratic Party, Aurinthia Liberation Party, and National People’s Party.

Party leaders were assessed by a panel of expert judges: President David Wippman; Margaret Gentry, Special Advisor to the President for Experiential Learning; Assistant Professor of Government Alexsia Chan; and two Oral Communication Center peer tutors, Kaygon Finakin ’19 (world politics) and Hannah Young ’20 (sociology). The winner of the debate, as determined by a panel of expert judges, was Joshua Doh of the National People’s Party. The winner of the popular vote was Matt Knowlton of the Aurinthia Liberation Party.

The debate focused on economic policy, foreign policy, and immigration policy. This simulation has several purposes: to help students appreciate the challenges facing European countries today, to give students a deeper understanding of party formation and coalition dynamics through experiential learning, to promote cooperative learning through focused small group work, and to improve students’ oral communication and leadership skills.

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