Katrina Lee, News Editor
VCU’s Minority Political Leadership Institute is being reinstated after a two year COVID-19 related hiatus.
The Minority Political Leadership Institute is an eight month program where students experience politics first hand through analyzing policy decisions related to minority communities and having conversations with political and community leaders.
Nakeina Douglas-Glenn, director of Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute, which is part of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, explained that the goal of this program is to create a “generation of leaders and professionals” who understand public policy, decision making and civic engagement.
“Students pick a piece of legislation from the most recent General Assembly session that they are interested in and they try to understand the racial implications of that legislation,” Douglas-Glenn said.
Applications for the Minority Political Leadership Institute next available session are due Oct. 15 and costs for the program are currently $3,425, according to the programs website.
The program was put on a two year hiatus in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to Douglas-Glenn.
“During this program, we travel around the state to try to learn more about the communities in our quest to really promote equity. We thought it would be responsible to not bring new people into communities and further the transmission rate of COVID-19,” Douglas-Glenn said.
Previous students in the program assessed policy like Virginia’s Fair Housing Law, which made discriminatory practices in residential housing illegal in 2018, according to the Virginia legislative information system website.
The program also analyzed the establishment of charter schools in Virginia and other policy decisions passed by Virginia’s General Assembly, according to the Minority Political Leadership Institute website.
“The team projects these students do in the program when they analyze policy around racial equity, teaches not only the technical skills of how to be a team player but also teaches students to unpack legislation so they can make meaning of it for these communities,” Douglas-Glenn said.
Delegate Lashrecse Aird, an alumna of the Minority Political Leadership Institute, served Virginia’s 63rd House District until her term ended last week. She was in the 2011 session of the program.
“Prior to being in elected office, this program was my first experience of looking into the different areas of the commonwealth of Virginia through a policy lens,” Aird said. “This program gave me a leg up to have a better understanding of policy and how it can have unintended consequences for minority communities.”
VCU mass communications graduate Taryn Anthony was in the Minority Political Leadership Institute during its 2018 session. She said that her experience in the program prepared her for her current work environment.
“In my group during the program, no one looked alike, sounded alike, or we did not all vote alike, which taught me how to approach any issue and taught me how to have meaningful conversations with others,” Anthony said. “This program also helped me put a magnifying glass over the difference between equality and equity.”
During her time in the program, Anthony and her team analyzed policy that dealt with a grocery store investment fund policy that selected areas for new grocery stores in an effort to fight food insecurity.
“We looked at legislation that had been filed, and there seemed to be no reason for the selected areas for new stores,” Anthony said. “We looked at the levels of income and saw needs for fresh groceries and reallocated the stores to those areas for it to actually be effective.”
Anthony expressed that she felt this program is not just for people who want to run for office, but for anyone who wants to “serve their community.”
“My personal opinion is that I believe any person who votes, needs this program. At the end of the day, the elective officials’ role is to work on behalf of all of their service areas,” Anthony said. “Part of holding them accountable, is making sure everyone is being heard and watched out for.”