Reported by: Katherine Walter, Hermitage High School and Anne Boniface, Bishop O'Connell
Today began our first real session of classes throughout the course. After breakfast at O'Hill, we kicked off our day with a seminar on Ethics, Politics, and Public Service, led by Lauren Gilbert and Sarah Campbell. The class first focused on the ideal leader, both in how we see ourselves and our elected officials. We spent a large amount of time on how we navigate through ethical dilemmas with tests and strategies, even with as mundane things as a grandma-grocery cart debacle. This later led to how our decision-making styles impact how we lead.
After the first session, we went into a working lunch where we were divided into 4 or 5 groups based on our local areas to discuss problem and success areas in those regions and later returned to the class to group together on Virginia as a whole. This activity allowed us to segway into the introduction of our policy projects and the issues we would be covering.
Next up in our day was the Informed and Thoughtful Citizen, taught by Professor Tom Walls and Marc Johnson. The class had a heavy focus on political climates and polarization, especially in comparison with last night's readings and how the partisan divide makes itself evident across our state. Finally, we wrapped up the day by studying the make-up of Virginia regarding population, race, and religion distributions.
Throughout the day, we overcame and learned how truly difficult it is to define Virginia as a whole. Each region of the state has an entirely different culture and history that affects the way they make certain decisions. We went in head first on how polarized we are as a state, and how we have changed over time to get to the point where we are now.
Together, we thought it was interesting to see the difference between racial make-up of Virginia outside of the areas each of us knows well. This especially led to exciting conversations about why we are such a "purple" state and what caused us to swing to one polar opposite of the partisan spectrum. The issues within different regions and how that could mean one thing to a certain region and an entirely different thing to another was something that we talked a lot about over dinner.
We are very excited about the fascinating course ahead of us and look forward to delving deeper into the content with everyone!