GM Top Policy Issues On Graduates' Minds

Top Policy Issues On Graduates’ Minds

Now, Hear This…

As commencement season is upon us and sporadic protests erupt across some college campuses, it’s a good time to look more closely at what’s on the minds of graduates.

Engaged Graduates

This year, I was privileged to teach a 4000-level public policy course at Florida State University, two semesters each with nearly 50 students per session. Students were within one semester of graduation or graduating at the end of the semester. 

I observe that students today are far more engaged in our world and where their nation fits in our world than some may realize. As with most generations, they want to be heard.

It’s easy to stereotype that youth are disengaged, scrolling their phones and capturing their news from TikTok. I can report they are eager to learn and for their thoughts to be listened to. 

Top Policy Issues

What are the top policy issues on their minds? In order, here’s what my students shared most frequently across 300 papers where they self-selected federal topics to write about:

  • Abortion policies, including the Dobbs decision, mifepristone use, and time-oriented abortion bans
    • The majority believe Congress should put this issue to rest and not have it settled state by state.
  • Border policy—not immigration writ large, border security
    • The majority believe border security is attainable and must be addressed.
  • Student loan forgiveness
    • The majority believe the funding of university-level education is flawed and unequal.
  • Security funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan
    • The majority do not support funding other nations at the expense of our own.

Before You Judge…

Before you ascribe these positions to me or argue that they don’t align with yours, read on.

The course’s focus is advocacy surrounding federal-level policies. We explored the various ways policies are influenced by policy stakeholders, advocates, and interest groups.

Encouraging Critical Thinking

A recurring exercise in the course is the completion of several short (2-page) reaction papers, where the student:

  • Identifies a federal policy issue;
  • Correctly identifies the various sides of the issue;
  • Correctly names the relevant agencies and congressional committees associated with the policy;

and finally,

  • Takes a position on the policy

Papers are sourced by using reputable news sources in order to provide citations, strengthen their positions, and eliminate opinion and conjecture. The paper’s flow must logically lead the reader to a thoughtful establishment of the author’s position.

In course surveys at the end of the course, students report recognizing the value of formulating their thoughts on these complex issues with facts. The effort to explore an issue’s sides requires drawing from multiple sources, some of which they would not normally see or seek out if not for the requirement to present the full picture.

Bringing This Concept To Your Workplace

You can bring this concept into your work dialogue without the weight of the federal policy issue. When evaluating a business situation, how fully do you and your team explore the other side? Serious question.

Could this comment have come from someone on your team? “Bob [a federal customer] is so hard to deal with, and his expectations of us are unrealistic. He favors our competitor time after time.”

Is Bob really being unrealistic? Or does Bob have a different perspective or set of constraints? Bob’s position may reflect sides of the issue you are not considering.

The exercise of working through the sides of the issue can do a few important things for you:

  • See your customer and the challenge through a different lens
  • Acknowledge the impact of other sides on your proposed solutions
  • Stir a level of creativity as the team imagines new solutions

Students want to be heard. 

So does Bob.

For a copy of my book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring® Circus of Federal Sales, and more information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.

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