Concordia College hosted Minnesota State Representative Heather Keeler at a discussion event to interact with students and speak about how to become more involved in state government.
Representative Keeler, first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives for District 4A in 2020, met with students Friday evening in the school’s Interactive Science Center where she discussed how students could continue to be involved in government after the voting process is complete.
The idea behind the event, co-sponsored by the school’s Pre-Law Society and Student Government Association (SGA), was proposed months in advance. Grace Halvorson, the Communications Director for the Pre-Law Society as well as the Civic Engagement Advocate for SGA, said Representative Keeler approached SGA after taking part in a panel discussion at Concordia’s symposium earlier this year and suggested an event focused on civic education.
The event was open to the entire student body and saw a combination of Pre-Law Society and SGA students in attendance. Halvorson said students appeared very receptive and empowered by the event and interacting with Keeler.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect from the event – any time a political figure comes to campus it can be a bit nerve-wracking – but everyone commented how they felt so informed, how she made it so simple, and how excited they were to be involved,” said Halvorson.
Several students who were in attendance that evening echoed what Halvorson said. Daniel Davies, a junior at Concordia minoring in political science, said it was impressive how Keeler reached out to the students and how accessible she made getting involved with the government appear.
Davies said, “It made you feel heard as a constituent of hers. She made it very simple for you to be involved and really brought in our opinions and our questions while we spoke with her.”
Throughout the event, Keeler spent time explaining to students how to get involved in the political process, whether that be testifying on bills, setting up meetings with state legislators, informing them on when the best times to get involved were, or how to write letters of support. Keeler also personally informed students of her willingness to be available as a voice in state government.
“She really made a point of saying your voice matters so much more than you think it does,” said Davies.
Tony Berndt, a freshman at Concordia and member of the Pre-Law Society, was also in attendance at Keeler’s event, and felt the state representative did an excellent job of making students feel heard.
“It was honestly inspirational,” Berndt said. “Oftentimes, politicians can feel very separate from the constituents they represent, just because of the nature of their job, but Keeler was making a clear effort to break that barrier. It was great to interact with someone who was clearly invested in what we wanted to see from government and actively encouraged our involvement.”
Halvorson spoke about the importance of having such events on campus and the way students benefitted from it.
“Politics is for us. The policies the legislature is passing right now will impact us throughout our lives, so it is critical that we are informed about what is going on and feel equipped to influence it. Students benefit from learning about the political process and seeing how they can be involved later in life, but even more so, government systems benefit from hearing the voices and opinions of students,” Halvorson said.
Halvorson said that understanding the political process is a privilege, and the people who know how to navigate it are the ones able to access their state legislators. Keeler explaining the process to Concordia students equipped them with the knowledge to be voices in government and have people’s needs be heard.