Amid impeachment trial, UPA program provides look at US politics

UPA group shotAbout 20 public policy graduate students from the Universidad Panamericana’s (UPA) Mexico City campus arrived in Washington, D.C., in the middle of the U.S. Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

“They had lots of questions, from the politics of impeachment, to the mechanics, to what it said about the structure of U.S. political institutions,” said Grant Reeher, professor of political science and director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. “A lot of the presenters used the impeachment as a reference point to illustrate larger points.”

Midcareer students from Mexico attended the Executive Education program, U.S. Government & Politics: Policy and Decision Making, to learn about how American government and political organizations work. This was the fifth year Executive Education collaborated with UPA to offer the Washington, D.C., program, whose participants work mainly in public sectors in Mexico.

The program gives UPA students an international perspective, said Margaret Lane, assistant director of Executive Ed. “The site visits and speakers provide real context to the theories we discuss.”

The program, which ran January 27 to January 31, included sessions on Congress, the U.S. presidency, immigration and the American system of federalism. The group met with speakers who were making news. Syracuse-area Congressional Rep. John Katko, a Republican in a swing district, had days before said he will support Trump’s re-election bid.

Katko also drew on his experience working with the U.S. Department of Justice on the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, to discuss immigration, drugs and violence. “His experience is immediately relevant to things (participants) think about on a daily basis,” said Reeher, the program’s faculty lead.

Presenters included three Syracuse University alumni. UPA students met with Gerry Petrella ’05 BA (PSc/Hist), policy director for Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who was participating in the Senate impeachment trial. Dave Levinthal ’00 BA (PPhil/Newspaper), senior reporter at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization, discussed the U.S. media landscape. Ann Marie Buerkle L’94, former member of Congress and former chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, spoke at a session called Political Conservatism and Government Regulation. Buerkle is now a lobbyist with the Washington, D.C.-based firm Williams & Jensen.

Reeher’s presentation on American exceptionalism “piques a lot of their interest,” he said. “Those are bigger, more lasting questions and topics about American politics and things they can take back to home countries to consider.”

Presenters also learn from UPA students, who share international perspectives and cultural practices. For example, they began the day greeting each other with hugs and friendly conversations. “They’re genuinely happy to see each other,” Reeher said. “There’s a real interpersonal connection.”