St. Olaf College | News

Student establishes international partnership through political forum

Josh Martin ’14 started a political forum at St. Olaf in partnership with the London School of Economics, where he studied during his year abroad.

During his year abroad at the London School of Economics, Josh Martin ’14 came to love regularly attending meetings where students discussed political events around the globe.

Upon his return to campus, Martin created a similar group for St. Olaf College in partnership with the London School of Economics Student Union (LSESU).

The new student organization, called the Forum, is designed to be a venue where students in both London and Northfield can exchange ideas on politics and current events in conversation with their international peers.

“I knew this was something I needed to bring back to St. Olaf: a society for politically minded students to get together and discuss anything and everything related to politics,” says Martin.

As the first student-run organization at St. Olaf with an international partner, the Forum will fill a unique niche on campus. The group meets once each month as part of the St. Olaf Political Awareness Committee’s weekly dinners and will discuss topics chosen by the students.

“Some days everyone will agree on one topic to discuss,” says Martin. “In fact, for our first meeting everybody eagerly agreed to discuss the government shutdown, which started the night before.”

Martin is still exchanging ideas with the president of LSE’s forum, but the two have agreed that LSE students will write posts for PAC’s PoliticOle blog while St. Olaf students can contribute to the LSESU Politics and Forum Society’s annual academic journal. Martin also plans to facilitate international discussions between the two groups using Skype.

“Spending a year in London among politically minded students at LSE enhanced my global perspective and encouraged me to assess America’s political landscape from an outsider’s view,” says Martin. “I forged this partnership with LSE because I know from experience that it will provide a bridge to international politics and foreign perspectives that St. Olaf students will utilize.”

The opportunity for students to approach international events and politics from outside of their native perspective is an exciting prospect for both the American students and their peers in London.

“When I first mentioned this idea to the corresponding executive board in London, they loved it and eagerly encouraged me to start my own version at St. Olaf,” says Martin. “It is truly a two-way partnership that will produce tangible benefits for both parties involved.”

In a letter to the St. Olaf Forum, the president of LSE’s counterpart, Ali Hughes, expressed similar sentiments.

“I believe by engaging with our fellows students we dispel our apathy about the world beyond our university campuses,” says Hughes. “Through the Forum at St. Olaf, you have the opportunity not only to broaden your horizons but to become the next generation working to tackle some of the world’s most important problems.”