Roosevelt Institute Aims to Elevate Public Policy Discussion to Action

Colorado College’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute (RI) is gearing up for its second year at the school, looking to build on its first-year foundation and set new policy-making goals for the future.

“Inspired by the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor, the Roosevelt Institute reimagines America as it should be: a place where hard work is rewarded, everyone participates, and everyone enjoys a fair share of our collective prosperity,” reads the RI’s mission statement on its website. “Until economic and social rules work for all, they’re not working.”

RI, a liberal American thinkTank founded in 1987, works to “rethink and reshape” local policy to federal legislation in order to create a political system that advocates for the good of the many, rather than the few. RI works with college students across the country to put policy making power into the hands of young people. The co-chairs of CC’s Roosevelt chapter this academic year are Andrew Braverman  ’18 and Russell Skorina ’19.

Braverman first learned of the RI through the New York Times, in a profile about the Institute’s CEO, Felicia Wong, who has been CEO since 2015. He was intrigued, and later learned of CC’s RI chapter through one of last year’s co-chairs, Jared Russell.

“Last year was Roosevelt’s first year here [at Colorado College], and it was very much a fledgling chapter,” said Braverman. “We did some research and inquiring into wage theft from immigrant workers; reached out to a state senator about it once but didn’t quite have the manpower or momentum to accomplish anything concrete.”

When Braverman took the job as co-chair at the end of last year, he was then afforded the opportunity to attend a leadership summit sponsored by the RI in August. The event brought together other college-aged Roosevelt leaders from across the country. The summit took place in Hyde Park, home of the FDR Presidential Library. Over the course of four days, Braverman absorbed guidance and thoughts from other young Roosevelt leaders. He now says he has big plans for his chapter, which just had tentative funding for the 2017-2018 academic year approved by the Political Science department.

“I had the chance to meet motivated and politically inspired, like-minded individuals from Roosevelt chapters across the country, hear what they were doing, what they’d accomplished, and their advice on how to grow a new chapter,” said Braverman. He ended up rooming with the president of Denver University’s Roosevelt chapter, Scott Romano. DU’s chapter has a sizable number of members, and Braverman hopes to learn from Romano going forward.

Braverman, Romano, and Matthew Walter, DU’s Roosevelt Director of Communications, are all eager to have the two chapters work together in some capacity in the future.

Walter had a lot to say about DU’s chapter, which was been around for three years.

“The best way to energize students is to work on something that hits close to home,” said Walter. “Tuition Lock-In has always been something that people grumble about under their breath, but we decided to put it back in campus discourse. We capitalized on Facebook, specifically Facebook ads, to spread our campaign around campus.”

Walter says they usually focus on three to four main policy initiatives to pursue throughout the school year. Though DU’s chapter is only slightly older than CC’s, they have grown fast. Walter offered some guidance for new chapters in his interview.

“Some advice I would give to new, small chapters is to not be afraid to rewrite your own rules,” said Walter. “I know that’s our slogan for policy, but truly, we have to look internally and try out new ways of organizing as a chapter. When looking to recruit new people, don’t target just the political scientists or just the public policy students. Our members come from all sorts of majors, from art history to geography.”

So far this semester, CC’s RI chapter has only held three meetings, but the future is looking bright. “We are hoping to publish something in RI’s policy journal and are looking into changing local policy regarding DACA protections in local public schools, sanctuary campus status, marijuana legalization in El Paso county, tuition lock-in, and even granting legal personhood to the Colorado River and other natural features.” Though CC’s membership falls far below that of Denver’s chapter, students have shown plenty of interest early on. 

“This year, we have a lot of young, enthusiastic members,” continued Braverman. He believes the numbers will only increase.

Elizabeth Coggins, Assistant Professor of Political Science, serves as the chapter’s advisor. Braverman has taken classes with Coggins and is confident she will be an integral part of growing the chapter and leading them to success this year. CC’s chapter meets on Thursdays in Palmer. 

Nathan Makela

Nathan Makela

News Editor
Nathan Makela is a junior at Colorado College. He has previously worked as a News Intern at the Colorado Springs Gazette and is currently News Editor at the Catalyst. As a Creative Writing major and Journalism minor, Nathan enjoys the intersection between reporting and storytelling.

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