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Not Your Grandmother’s Pep Club

According to Merriam-Webster, to engage is “to provide occupation for” and “to induce to participate.” According to Muhlenberg political science professor, Jack Gambino, Ph.D., however, engagement means a whole lot more.

Crash Course

A sampling of PEP courses:

‘Strangers in Paradise’: Immigrants in Post WWII America

‘The Really Big Show’: Performance in the Public Sphere

Whose Land Is It?

Foundations of Education

The Economics of Poverty and Discrimination in the U.S.

Race and the Making of American Society

Conservation Biology

Democracy, Diversity, and Dialogue

As head of the College’s Public Engagement Project, otherwise known as PEP, Gambino has combined his passions of education and activism to create a program tailored to engage the minds of Muhlenberg faculty, staff and students, through a grant from the Hewlett Foundation Program on Pluralism and Unity. The challenge: “To develop the skills and the judgment to decide when to celebrate differences and work for equity and opportunity and when together to design and work towards conceptions of shared values and common good.”

Over the past four years, PEP has not only met but surpassed that goal. “We’ve created an ambitious program of curricular innovation,” Gambino proudly explains. “Students have been able to develop the civic skills and practices needed to generate and sustain democratic dialogue on contentious public issues.

“We’ve developed and taught 25 PEP courses, including 13 specifically designed for the program,” he continues. PEP has had the good fortune to enlist the talents of Muhlenberg professors from a myriad of departments, including languages; literature & cultures; philosophy; economics; english; theater; communications; and anthropology, to name but a few. This wide array of backgrounds has enabled students to benefit from a truly interdisciplinary, educated approach to controversial topics of the day, while expanding the teaching methods employed by the professors.

Given the ambitious goals of the program and the dedication of the PEP teaching community, it came as no surprise to Gambino that the program has been a success. “PEP has promoted a significant and sustained campus-wide dialogue on what the Muhlenberg mission can mean in the contemporary context,” he comments. “The emphasis on developing opportunities for student engagement with public issues has helped to make a more engaged campus.”


Heather Zeman is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. This is her first piece for Muhlenberg Magazine.

 

ALUMNI PROFILE
Lawrence Husick ’80

“I’ve never held a job for which there was a written job description,” laughs Lawrence Husick ’80, Esq. “I was selected for the Foreign Policy Research Institute because I’m a good terrorist.”

Such a statement might raise shock and alarm to much of the post 9/11 community. Husick, however, who graduated from Muhlenberg with a degree in chemistry and currently practices law, subscribes to a more academic definition of the label terrorist.

“A terrorist is really just someone who uses leverage to bring about change,” explains Husick. “It’s a relative term. In many ways, Moses could have rightly been called a terrorist.”

No doubt Husick’s ability to look at problems creatively has a lot to do with why he was approached to be a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Center for Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, and Homeland Security. One of 15 employees, Husick defines their work as “analyzing the goals, tactics and strategies of terrorists threatening the U.S. and its allies to predict future actions and to develop solutions that will prevent those actions, lessen their impact, and permit society to survive such an event.”

So how did he get a gig like this? “Actually,” says Husick, “it was self-recruited.”

Pardon?

“I worked with the co-director of the FPRI at the University of Pennsylvania’s Organizational Dynamics masters program. The teaching focused on bringing about change in organizations by working through the bureaucratic layers.”

Contemplating ways to bring about change has been a theme in Husick’s life, especially during his time at Muhlenberg. As a chemistry major, Husick worked closely with the political science department when he applied for a grant through the National Science Foundation. “As a chemistry major, I had a very different experience in the political science department. A great many members of the political science faculty were very helpful in helping me to understand the real world aspects of what I was studying. Their help allowed me to see the problem from a wide variety of perspectives.”

The influence that the political science members had on Husick during his time at Muhlenberg continues to resonate. “The people who are our opposition today don’t have bureaucratic procedures and they don’t run by rules,” Husick continues. “The country needs more guys like me, who can think like our opponents.”

 

 

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