By Wendy Humphrey
December 11, 2013
West Windsor, N.J. – What could be a better way to learn about politics and government than by hearing from those who do it for a living? That was the premise for Leonard Winogora, Senior Instructor in the Social Sciences, as he developed the curriculum for his State and Local Politics (POL 102) course this fall.
The 12 guest speakers who visited his class included politicians and policy makers. One of the semester’s final speakers was Christine Todd Whitman, who visited on Dec. 2. Whitman served as New Jersey governor from 1994-2001, and then as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through 2003. Currently she is President of The Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm that specializes in energy and environmental issues.
Recalling her own career trajectory, Whitman had words of advice for students. She noted that her first job, which proved not to be her calling, still helped in her career growth. “It’s important to learn what you don’t want to do. That’s helps you find what you do want to do,” she said. Whitman also advised students to “be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that come your way.”
She admitted that she was not always an expert on a given issue. “But I knew I could find the answers. You have to surround yourself with creative people who have good ideas. You have to have people you can count on,” she said.
As governor, Whitman says she made improving the climate for the business community a priority. That’s one of the reasons she is such a strong supporter of community colleges.
“Our community college system is one of the state’s strongest attributes. They help attract businesses looking for qualified employees,” she said.
Whitman emphasized her strong commitment to the “get out the vote” message, and implored her young audience to do its part. “Democracy demands involvement.” She added that the New Jersey governor has the most power of any state in the country. “If you don’t vote, you are saying you don’t care.”
According to Professor Winogora, prior to each speaker’s visit, students prepared by reading pertinent chapters in their textbook as well as supplemental materials. Additionally, they submitted thoughtful questions in advance.
Student Francisco Dominguez observed that the class was so much more interesting because of the guest speakers. “It got us really engaged in learning,” he said, adding that he was also appreciative of the doors the class may open as he considers a career in politics.