CAS students participate in Model Illinois Government

Four students represented SIUE in its first showing at Model Illinois Government earlier this month where college students from across the state debated legislation.

College of Arts and Science students Logan Creen, Laura Grace, Kendra Weinhoffer and Alex Lovett attended Model Illinois Government in SIUE's first showing. Photo courtesy of Denise DeGarmo

Junior political science major Kendra Weinhoffer spearheaded SIUE’s involvement with the program last September after being involved at John A. Logan College in Carterville. Students debate real legislation in Springfield using the same procedures as elected officials, according to Weinhoffer.

SIUE made a “pretty impressive showing,” according to Weinhoffer, with herself receiving the Outstanding Member of the House Award out of more than 100 students. Junior economics major Logan Creen served as a committee chair and assistant majority leader in the Senate. Senior Laura Grace and junior Alex Lovett were lobbyists.

“We had a small delegation this year, but I think that we definitely proved to the department that we’re capable, and this is a worthwhile experience,” Weinhoffer said.

Involvement with Model Illinois Government made Weinhoffer “think a lot more about the practicalities of things.”

“You sit in classes and you think it’s all theoretical and it doesn’t really impact anything,” Weinhoffer said, “but then you don’t really realize how much actually goes into a piece of legislation, and you don’t realize all the effects that has until you get into a situation where you research and do all those kinds of things.”

Creen got involved with Model Illinois Government through classes he took at Blackhawk College in Moline. His venture to the capital representing SIUE was his third experience. He said his emotions while attending the program initially ranged from excited to awe to “overwhelmed by the coolness factor.”

“Then there’s like that nervousness of the first time you speak and then you get over it and you’re just like, ‘This is awesome,’” Creen said.

Weinhoffer said she attended Model Illinois Government with John A. Logan College for two years before her first trip with SIUE.

“It’s so overwhelming,” Weinhoffer said, “but it’s a great opportunity for people to be confident about their beliefs. I mean, to stand up in such an intimidating area and be able to debate how you feel about things that, it helps people be better public speakers, be more confident and it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

In her first experience, Weinhoffer said she expected to sit back and observe, but once she got to the chambers wanted to be as involved as possible.

“It’s one of those things where [the] more you put into it, the more you get out of it,” Weinhoffer said.

Though an economics major, Creen said his experiences in Springfield enhanced his studies.

“They’re related in a sense because economic policy is something that you do need to keep track of when you’re working with government stuff,” Creen said, “and it does provide a fair amount of insight. One of the bills that I love to debate on that always ends up happening is a minimum wage increase and I can use my knowledge from [classes] to debate well on that…”

Model Illinois Government, according to Creen, is an “awesome experience.”

“If you’re interested in any aspect of government, you should go for it,” Creen said. “You spend a weekend debating bills. It’s full of like-minded college students. You go to the actual capital building… and there’s roles for people who don’t want to get up and argue. You can be a lobbyist, a journalist, OMB analyst. There’s a lot you can do and it’s really just an amazing experience.”

Creen said there is hope that the student organization will turn into a class with the help of political science Department Chair Denise DeGarmo.

DeGarmo said the department will talk to Model Illinois Government students about the “feasibility of constructing a class around the simulation.” The process could take two years to complete, according to DeGarmo.

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