HWS Votes Brings Congress to Campus – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

HWS Votes Brings Congress to Campus

Former Congressional Representatives Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) spent three days on campus in early March, discussing the opportunities for positive discourse and civil engagement amid partisan division in a national election year.

Organized by HWS Votes Co-Presidents Bart Lahiff ’20 and Audrey Platt ’21, the campus visit included two public forums, six mealtime meetings with student groups and appearances at nine HWS classes. More than 350 members of the HWS community connected with the former representatives, exploring important issues like voting accessibility, COVID-19, healthcare, homelessness, immigration policy and environmental concerns.

Congress to Campus group
Students gather with the representatives, Associate Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) Amy Jackson-Sellers and CCESL Director Katie Flowers.

The visit was made possible through the Association of Former Members of Congress program, Congress to Campus, which connects former representatives with students to promote civic interest and understanding. The bipartisan program is designed to inspire students to participate in U.S. democracy.

“It was a great experience hearing the stories of two powerful women with unique trajectories,” says Maya Striuli ’23.

In addition to the public forums and classroom visits, Buerkle and Sanchez met with the HWS chapter of Public Leadership Education Network, sharing their experiences on the challenges women leaders face in Congress and how to overcome them.

“They were candid in a way that I think many people at HWS need to hear,” says Zaheer Bowen ’24, “especially on the getting-out-the-vote front.”

Former Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez speaks with students in the Faculty Dining Room.

At the end of every forum, meal and class, Buerkle and Sanchez urged HWS students to engage in the political and civic arena and remain involved to push for the changes they support. Both representatives said they were inspired by what they saw at HWS: committed students eager to work together, despite partisanship, to improve the American experiment.