PLS Scholars explore politics, government and policy life at a Day at the Capitol

February 29, 2024 - Karessa Weir

Political Science Scholars got the chance to explore the halls of the state Capitol in Lansing and meet with high-level elected officials and policy makers at a renewed tradition - a Day at the Capitol.

Traditionally a field trip for the Scholars, the event had stopped with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time it was held in five years, bringing a dozen scholars to a meeting room on the 5th floor of the Capitol.

“You are among our best and brightest that we have and we bring you to collect evidence that supports or refutes the theories you have learned in your PLS classes,” said Dr. Marty Jordan, internship director and associate professor. 

“It is your right to come to the Capitol but it is also your privilege. It is an extension of this program and one of the benefits of being so close to the Capitol,” Dr. Jordan said. 

PLS Scholars on the steps of the Capitol

The students first heard from House Minority Floor Leader Bryan Posthumus, R-Kent County. An MSU alumnus, Posthumus grew up hanging out in the Capitol when his father, Dick Posthumus, was lieutenant governor with Gov. John Engler. He said his biggest job is to always find common ground with other politicians, especially those in the other party.

“I’m Republican. Republicans and Democrats agree on the problems - gun violence, employment - but the difference is what we see as the solutions,” Posthumus said. “Republicans see government as the problem. Democrats see government as the solution.” 

Nicole Bernard, MSU graduate in psychology and sociology, is current communications director for state Sen. Erika Geiss, Assistant President Pro Tem of the Senate. Bernard told the Scholars she first met Sen. Geiss after sending her direct message on Twitter (now X) about racial inequality and police violence. The conversation led to a meeting and Bernand was hired as a legislative aide. 

Today as communications director, Bernard writes press releases, statements and other communications for Sen. Geiss. Her most important job was learning the “voice” of the senator. 

“I listen to her in session and talking throughout the day,” Bernard said. 

House Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash and his legislative aide Katie Michaels told the Scholars how they came to work at the Capitol. Michaels, a graduate of Cooley Law School, urged the students to keep their moral compass and push for what you believe in. 

Rep. Aiyash, the son of Yemeni immigrants, is a graduate of James Madison College at MSU and is working toward more decorum in politics. He is inspired by President Barack Obama and 

“I believe this is the greatest country in the world and its hopes - and a lot of its horrors - will never be replaced in the world,” Rep. Aiyash said. 

Also meeting with students were Stephen Rajzer, Director of Strategy for Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt and Linus Banghart-Linn, Chief Legal Counsel for Attorney General Dana Nessel.


Day at the Capitol

 Photos by Jackie Belden Hawthorne, College of Social Science