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Insider Politics: University Course Goes to the State Capitol

Posted by on Monday, February 12, 2018 in News, The Nation's Health.

Written by Gilbert Gonzales, Assistant Professor of Health Policy

•Professor Gilbert Gonzales (Department of Health Policy) with students enrolled in UNIV 3325/5325.

Professor Gilbert Gonzales (Department of Health Policy) with students enrolled in UNIV 3325/5325.

Students in the University Course The Nation’s Health: From Policy to Practice (UNIV 3325/5325) travelled with Prof. Gilbert Gonzales to the Tennessee State Capitol on Monday, January 29, to listen to Governor Bill Haslam’s State of the State Address. In his final statewide address to the joint session, the governor talked about how Tennessee has improved in past seven years. He touted the state’s low unemployment rate, the improving high school graduation rate and that more adults are receiving vocational and technical training. All the while, according Haslam, state spending and taxes are lower than they were seven years ago.

Governor Bill Haslam delivering the State of the State Address.

Governor Bill Haslam delivering the State of the State Address.

The governor also identified his priorities for Tennessee, saying that he wants “Tennessee to lead the nation in jobs, education and government efficiency. I don’t just want us to compete; I want us to be the best.”

The governor touched on key concepts taught in UNIV 3325/5325, such as the role states play in the policy process. “Our country’s founding fathers established the states as laboratories of democracy, where each state could choose its own path and learn what works. In Tennessee, we now know what works. We’ve seen extraordinary job gains and must continue to fuel the jobs machine that we have created here in Tennessee.”

Speaker of the House Beth Harwell speaking to the Tennessee General Assembly.

Speaker of the House Beth Harwell speaking to the Tennessee General Assembly.

The opioid crisis was the main focus of public health and health policy topics discussed. “The opioid epidemic is crippling our state and our country,” said Haslam. “Last week, we announced a comprehensive plan to end the opioid crisis that focuses on prevention, treatment and law enforcement. Our approach will be aggressive with provisions to limit the supply of opioids, provide significant dollars to treat those in need and to fight the illicit sale and trafficking of opioids. This will not be an easy fight, or one that will be won overnight, but it is one we must attack head on.”

Pictured from left to right: Ryan Driscoll (Department of Health Policy), Maggie McAlexander (Public Policy Studies Major), and Nicole Quinones (Public Health Graduate Student).

Pictured from left to right: Ryan Driscoll (Department of Health Policy), Maggie McAlexander (Public Policy Studies Major), and Nicole Quinones (Public Health Graduate Student).

This was a very insightful and one-of-a-kind immersion experience for students. Nicole Quinones, a Vanderbilt graduate student in public health, had this say about the visit: “It isn’t often that many people have the opportunity to say they attended and heard a state governor deliver an address to a room full of representatives and other players in the policy making process. Being able to attend Governor Haslam’s final State of the State Address gave me small, but significant insight into the type of environment that our policymakers work in. I took in every detail during this valuable experience, that is open to all citizens, from the priorities listed in Governor Haslam’s speech for the state of Tennessee to the beautiful antiquity of our state capitol.”

Another student to attend the State of the State Address was Public Policy Studies major Maggie McAlexander. “I had never been to the Capitol while the General Assembly was in session. It was an incredible experience imagining myself on the floor working as a staffer or representative someday and hearing Governor Haslam instill his legacy in the minds of his constituents.”


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