Brandeisians leading through legislation

ENACT, a non-partisan, academic program that began at Brandeis, has spread to 29 universities and connects students with coursework and legislators

Madeline Bisgyer ’20 and Noaem Shurin ’19, speak to a group in front of a window Photo/David Weinstein

Madeline Bisgyer ’20 (left) and Noaem Shurin ’19, students in the Spring 2019 ENACT course at Brandeis.

Social justice runs in nearly every Brandesian’s blood stream. It permeates into many aspects of academics and daily life, and in many cases it spreads beyond the boundaries of campus.

One example is ENACT: The Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation.

Formally launched by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life in 2015, ENACT is a Brandeis-based, non-partisan national program. Undergraduate students work with state legislators, staffers, and community organizations to advance policy in 29 states across the country.

What started at Brandeis has quickly expanded to a national network. To date, 29 universities in 29 states are using the ENACT program to enhance students’ learning, enable them to connect with people active in their field of choice, and connect them with others who share a similar mission to make an impact on civic life in the U.S.

“There’s a desire on college campuses to get involved,” explained assistant director of ENACT, David Weinstein. “So many students want to become more informed and effective participants in society.”

ENACT is a national expansion of Advocacy for Policy Change, an initiative launched at Brandeis in 2009 featuring a hands-on course in which student teams select bills that interest them under consideration in the Massachusetts State Legislature. They then research the issues, learn the state legislative process and how to get involved, and work with community organizations to support or oppose active legislation. This expansion of ENACT from Brandeis to universities around the country was made possible by a gift from Ethics Center Board member Norbert Weissberg and his wife, former board member Judith Schneider.

Students and faculty also meet with state legislators, legislative aides, community activists, and ENACT alumni who have engaged with the course at Brandeis or at other ENACT schools across the country.

Sage Rosenthal'19 stands with U.S. Rep. Catherine Clark in front of a U.S. flag
Photo courtesy of Sage Rosenthal

Sage Rosenthal '19 stands with Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

Sage Rosenthal ’19 has a longstanding interest in health policy and previous experience in advocacy work, and with ENACT she was able to work on a bill regarding children’s mental health services while enrolled in the Advocacy for Policy Change course.

“Through ENACT, you are part of a larger network of students and faculty that are politically engaged and want to implement their work into the community. There are so many people that share your mission,” she said. “You have the tools and the skills to make a difference to make it sustainable and real. Whether you learned about this issue through a club on campus or a topic from class, getting involved can happen.”

Rosenthal’s interest in the legislative process continued after her initial involvement with ENACT; she also interned with U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark in her Washington office.

As the 2018-19 ENACT student delegate, Rosenthal served as a liaison for the network of participating colleges across the nation. Looking ahead, she hopes to move to Washington, D.C. to work in healthcare policy and utilize the skills and experiences she has gained from ENACT.

Former Massachusetts state representative Jay Kaufman '68, MA '73, serves as the Distinguished Legislative Mentor for ENACT, and having long been involved with the Advocacy for Policy Change course developed and taught by Professor Melissa Stimell.

“I think the most rewarding thing is seeing the fire in the eyes of the students and witnessing them get a good sense of what it takes to affect change and engage in skill building effectively,” Kaufman said.

Students interested in learning more about ENACT can visit their website or contact enact@brandeis.edu

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