Student POV: Future politicos from Acadia gain insights during legislature visit

In-class discussions and academic theory certainly have their value, but if you’re taking a course with Dr. Alex Marland, he’s going to ensure your political education is one that also involves real-world experiences. The Acadia professor, who is a Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership, believes in actively developing programming to train the next generation of political leaders – and that means arranging for his students to spend some time in Province House, the home of Nova Scotia’s provincial legislature.

Just before the recent term wrapped up, Dr. Marland organized an opportunity for students from Acadia’s Canadian Political Parties (POLS 3903) class to visit the provincial legislature in Halifax so that they could witness political work in action – and have a chance to directly speak with Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) across all party lines. Together with students from Dalhousie and Saint Mary's University, the Acadia students met with MLAs John White and Chris Palmer from the Progressive Conversative caucus, Tony Ince, Lorilei Nicoll, and Zach Churchill of the Liberal Party, Suzie Hansen and Gary Burrill from the New Democratic Party, and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, who holds an independent seat in Province House.

“Seeing first-hand how politicians come together in caucus rooms in the legislative precinct brings politics to life,” said Dr. Marland. “Acadia’s small class sizes and the accessibility of Nova Scotia’s politicians enable direct, personal interactions that help students understand how politics works. Getting out of the classroom and learning about real-world politics is crucial for equipping students to confront a complex political world.”

The attendees couldn’t agree more.

Here’s what Acadia students had to say:

“It was refreshing and enlightening to hear from a politician (independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin) who is not concerned with a party, but rather is just focused on serving her constituents. Although I don’t agree with some things she said, it was very interesting to hear her take on party politics. I am very passionate about trying to be the change that I want to see in the world. Studying politics can help me to better understand how to navigate political systems and enact that positive change. I want to go to law school, and this is a good pre-requisite.”
- Esther Uhlman, Second-year, Politics

“Several politicians from each major party, and even some political staffers, wanted us to come to committee meetings and question period as well. It really gave me the sense that the politicians had a level of pride in their work. Learning a theoretical approach to politics is good to understand the field more deeply, but without knowledge of how these lessons can be applied to the real world, there is not much point in understanding it. That is what I take from experiential learning opportunities like this. In the legislature, and these offices, I was able to contextualize what I learned in class.”
- Sterling Shannon, Third-year, Politics

“Exploring the offices of multiple political parties and the legislature is not something I would have done without Dr. Marland. I have always been interested in politics, and my time at Acadia is giving me the chance to discover multiple perspectives in how I might improve political issues.”
- Nick Tan, Fourth-year, Politics

“This was eye-opening! I was pleasantly surprised by how much we saw "behind the scenes." I was glad to see that the politicians were very accommodating and want to connect with and hear the opinions of young voters. I also need to say that Dr. Marland and the students made me feel very welcome; as an Acadia Lifelong Learning (ALL) student, I really feel that there are no barriers to my participation and that I am part of the group.”
- Michael Martin, Acadia Lifelong Learning (ALL) Student  

Interested in taking a class with Dr. Marland?

He’ll be teaching Research Methodology (POLS 3033) this fall and Leaders and Cabinets in Canada (POLS 3133) at Acadia this winter. Registration for Acadia’s Fall 2024 courses begins the week of May 27th. Members of the community can also enjoy access to political science classes and other courses through Acadia’s Lifelong Learning opportunities.  

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