Students Visit Maryland State House, Meet with Delegates from Western MD

Students from Frostburg State University visited the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis on March 8 to meet with delegates from western Maryland, as well as Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford.

The trip was sponsored by the J. Glenn Beall Institute for Public Affairs, led by Tim Magrath, and the Office for Civic Engagement, led by Patrick O’Brien.

Dr. Dave Kiriazis, faculty advisor for FSU’s College Republicans, and Taylor Schmitz, the President of the College Republicans, organized the event in coordination with the Maryland Republican party.

Joe Cluster, the executive director of the Maryland Republican party, hosted the visit, which was nonpartisan.

After arriving in Annapolis mid-morning, students entered the Statehouse and met with Cluster for lunch. Students were joined at lunch by Delegate Wendell R. Beitzel, who represents Garrett County and part of Allegany County, and Delegate Michael McKay, who represents Washington County and part of Allegany County.

At 1:00, the group toured the State House, learning the historical significance of the building. The Maryland State House is the oldest state capitol still in continuous legislative use, and it is the only state house that has served as the nation’s capitol. The Continental Congress met in the Old Senate Chamber from November 26, 1783, to August 13, 1784.

While the state house was serving as the nation’s capital, George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in December 1783, and the Treaty of Paris was ratified in 1784, officially ending the Revolutionary War.

Before meeting Rutherford, the group briefly sat in a joint committee hearing, watching the legislative process unfold.

Magrath, who is also a lecturer in the political science department at FSU, said that the Annapolis trip is “a two-pronged strategy. One, to get the students to see how government works, but also to see that this is a splendid career path.”

Encouraging students to engage more actively in the political process is one of Magrath’s goals.

“Our nation is built on the foundation of our communities,” Magrath said, emphasizing the importance of getting involved at the local level. “By and large, students can understand the opportunities that might exist and why it’s important to get involved not just as a voter,” but as a participant, too.

“Ideally, exposing people to Annapolis is a great opportunity for them to understand how our government works, but also, to hopefully make students less cynical of government,” he said.

Maggie Hobbins, a junior political science major, said, “[the trip] reaffirmed my decision to be able to have the opportunity to take the internship offered at the state house. It has also inspired me to want to work with legislation and policy making. It was a great experience to be able to network. It was very inspiring to see the legislative process to unfold in front of me and get to learn about the different jobs it takes to get a bill to pass or to destroy a bill.”

Students also had the opportunity to meet Frostburg alumni currently working with the Allegany County Delegation, including Chris Lokey and Wes Hutto. Lokey is a Frostburg alumnus who works as Beitzel’s legislative assistant. Hutto is currently interning with the General Assembly through the Beall Institute for Public Affairs, which helps place FSU students in internships in Annapolis and D.C.

“I was glad to share my story to help educate to everyone that this program could turn into a job right out of college, and how opportunities are always opening up down here,” Lokey said. “Our generation, our students, and our peers will be Maryland’s, inevitably the U.S.’s next governmental leaders. For this, I cannot express enough, having these students engaged and involved in state government is a crucial part of the process into getting our young adults more interested in politics.”

“Ultimately besides learning the political process, I hope they learned that our State government has an opportunity and even a potential job for each of these students,” Lokey added. “Programs exist to get these young adults engaged and to give them a taste on how our state is run. It’s a great way to get a foot in the door, as I did, and I have they all take advantage of getting involved in our state government sooner than later.”

Magrath reiterated that FSU and the Beall Institute share a goal in driving students to be more politically engaged.

Magrath stated: “I think the university, as well as the Beall Institute, share a strong desire for democratic engagement, basically, and we see our responsibilities at the university as giving students the tools that are needed to succeed in the professional world, but also I think that succeeding in democratic engagement, in our community, is a priority.”

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