COLUMBUS, Miss.-- Mississippi University for Women is always looking to do more for its students.

Dr. Chanley Rainey had that philosophy in mind when she set out to add to the course offerings in The W’s Department of History, Political Science & Geography.

The result of Rainey’s work is a course on Nonprofit Advocacy & Government Relations, which will be available in the 2020-21 school year. Rainey, an assistant professor of political science, said the curriculum for the course ensures students will be prepared to serve nonprofit organizations as government relations professionals.

“We developed the course and concentration because the nonprofit sector is becoming more professional, more organized and more focused on political advocacy,” Rainey said. “The sector needs people trained to strategically engage in political processes and to navigate the complex rules and regulations governing lobbying, community and grassroots organizing and other advocacy activities undertaken by 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 527 organizations.

Rainey said the ability of citizens to impact political decisions extends well beyond the ballot box, and it always has. She said American citizens’ remarkable capacity for joining together in pursuit of common interests was first noted by Alexis de Tocqueville in his 1831 study of the new country, Democracy in America, and the important role of civil society in democratic politics continues today. Sometimes called the “third sector,” which includes charities, churches, human service organizations, lobbying firms and less formal associations that seek to influence politics, groups in civil society frequently interact with political society when laws and regulations impact their interests. As a result, Rainey said it is crucial students learn about the policymaking process and the strategies pursued by advocacy organizations as they seek to influence decisions that bear on their missions.

This is the first time a course like this has been offered at The W. The course will examine inside and outside lobbying, including how public advocacy and grassroots organizing interact with interventions in the legislative, executive and judicial branches to maximize an organization’s impact on policy decisions. In addition, students will explore the ethical ramifications of interest group activity from the perspective of democratic theory and will learn about the rules and regulations governing nonprofit advocacy.

Students will have opportunities to interact with professionals who work with nonprofits and advocacy organizations in Mississippi, including community organizers and government relations specialists.

“An increasing number of political science majors are interested in political careers outside of government, law and academia,” Rainey said. “Many of them want to work as political professionals in the nonprofit sector, helping their organizations advocate for various interests and policy positions.

“This course will support the university’s goals of stimulating leadership development and equipping students for responsible citizenship as well as its commitment to public service and partnership with governmental and charitable organizations. Students in the course will gain a deeper understanding of how charitable organizations are affected by public laws and policies as well as ways in which organizations can impact policy to improve their communities and advance their missions.”

Rainey said the course on Nonprofit Advocacy & Government Relations also will support students pursuing the Business Concentration in Nonprofit Management by providing another option that can satisfy the concentration’s elective requirements.

Dr. Scott Tollison, The W’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the nonprofit advocacy course is part of the new programming that will be available this year. The other new offerings include a concentration in nonprofit management (business, online), sports management (business), social studies (political science), political science switch from BA to BS and others. All of the programs will be available for the 2020-21 school year.

“The concentration in nonprofit advocacy will teach students the strategies necessary to advance the mission of those nonprofit organizations they serve through heightening awareness of issues and transforming communities,” Tollison said.

In addition to the new course, Rainey said students will be able to take a Concentration in Nonprofit Advocacy and a Concentration in Social Studies.
The Concentration in Nonprofit Advocacy will help students understand the interactions between mass politics and policy-making processes, the political strategies employed across the branches of government and at various levels of government and the political and legal context in which advocacy organizations operate.

Students in the concentration will take a core set of politics courses to ensure they have a strong foundation in political institutions and processes. They take traditional courses like American Government, Southern Politics and World Politics, but they also have courses devoted to deliberative democracy, protest and contention and government relations. Beyond politics, the program includes elective coursework in public relations and nonprofit management. All graduates are required to complete at least one internship prior to graduation.

June 15, 2020
Contact: Adam Minichino
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