By Rochelle Stewart Rubino
The University of Massachusetts at Lowell’s new Center for Public Opinion offers students a unique opportunity for experiential learning right on campus. The center, which plans political polling, is the site of tonight’s debate between the declared Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Scott Brown. The debate is a partnership between UMass-Lowell and the Boston Herald.
“Experiential learning is an important piece of a well-rounded education,” said professor Frank Talty, director of the Center for Public Opinion and a political science professor at UMass-Lowell. “(Those who) try out their own skills have a much better success rate after graduation.”
Talty said the upcoming debate and polling the university is conducting through the center is a “good example of how (students) can study in a classroom” and actively participate in the political process.
“This is real-world experience we are trying to integrate into our curriculum,” he said.
Students will serve as panelists who will question the candidates.
Eunice Delice, a graduate student in economic and social development, is one of the student panelists.
“Having students on the panel gives us a sense of ownership,” Delice said. “We are doing something that has never been done before on campus and that speaks volumes about our campus community.”
Delice, who wants to work in higher education administration, said the debate gives her insight to politicians’ views on education. Delice said it’s important for her to know what people see as the “future of education.”
“It’s not talked about enough,” she added.
The Center for Public Opinion is also conducting polling to examine political, social, economic and cultural issues, such as a poll, in partnership with the Herald on how Massachusetts voters feel about candidates and critical issues facing the commonwealth.
“We see the (center) as an academic program,” Talty said, adding that it will be steered by a faculty group, engaging students across multiple disciplines.
Delice also sees the center as a way to encourage students to “ask questions and to be forever searching for information.”
“I feel it is important for students to be exposed to varying views,” she said.
The Democratic candidates for U. S. Senate debate is scheduled for 7 tonight, at Durgin Hall on the UMass — Lowell campus. The debate is free and open to the public.