Inside USD

Dominguez Cultivates Passion for Politics

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Casey Dominguez’s first true political activism was in 1984 as a second-grader.

“My mom had me writing letters to the presidential candidates — Walter Mondale, Geraldine Ferraro and Ronald Reagan,” she recalled. “That’s my earliest political memory and (politics) has been a passion my whole life.”

Dominguez, an assistant professor of political science and international relations at USD since 2004, has taken a motherly approach herself during the 2008 election. She’s been a major proponent of giving students and the campus community the chance to engage in vibrant political discussions, promote voter registration and provide opportunities for voters to learn more about election issues from informed experts.

“We had talked about this as a department and how nice it would be if students had some way to interact with each other and interact with faculty about politics and use it as a teachable moment,” Dominguez said. “It’s been a good, high-profile moment to help people understand that politics is important, some of the ways they can affect it and provide them with details beyond just voting for Obama or McCain.”

Election talk was on the rise in Spring 2007 when Dominguez, who has a BA, MA and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and interned in the California State Assembly and in the White House, taught a class about political parties.

“The presidential candidates were starting to emerge and my students were interested in having some informal way to find out more information beyond the classroom. There were 14 candidates, a lot of Democrats and a lot of Republicans, who were seeking the nomination at that point. We watched their debates together and there seemed to be a lot of interest for extracurricular events. It made me want to do more,” she said.

Political events on campus have included presidential debate viewing parties in Mission Crossroads, a Super Tuesday results party on the night of the California primary, faculty presentations on election topics such as immigration, global warming, national security/the War on Terror and appointment of federal judges, open political forums and specific discussions about race, gender and religion and its influence on voters. Tables set up outside the Hahn University Center served as information booths for ballot issues and voter registration materials.

This past Tuesday, with the election one week away, Dominguez and three of her department colleagues — professors Gary Gray, Noelle Norton and Del Dickson — provided a comprehensive look at the 12 state propositions that will be on the ballot for California voters.

“That was something the faculty can do. We can provide nonpartisan research and information,” Dominguez said. “There’s a lot of expertise on this campus that can inform students of the choices they face and it’s not done in an advocacy kind of way, but in an informative way.”

On Wednesday, the Pardee Legal Research Center was the site of a 50-minute student debate put together by Republican Law Society President Annie Macaleer and USD Law Democrat President Erin Robbins and sponsored by the Student Bar Association. Four USD Law Democrats (Ted Fiorito, Andrew Adams, Jessica Paugh, Anand Upadhye) and four Republican Law Society members (Erik Carter, Uzzell Branson, Luke Thompson, Josh Youngkin) discussed their respective candidate’s stance on the issues of the economy, energy, the War on Terror and judicial appointments. Two independents (Kate Kelly and Jeff Middlesworth) who support Ralph Nader, spoke on two issues — Kelly on the economy and Middlesworth about energy.

The last two USD political events for the 2008 election are on Nov. 4 and Nov. 6. On Tuesday, the university hosts an official polling place in the Degheri Alumni Center, open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Public Affairs, Associated Students, the department of Political Science and International Relations, and Residential Life are co-hosting an election night party in Hahn University Center from 4-11 p.m. The event is open to the public and TVs will be on to watch the election results. Two days later, a post-election event at Mother Rosalie Hill Hall features political experts discussing the election results and what’s next.

Regardless of the election outcome on Nov. 4, Dominguez is excited to see the number of young voters who turn out to vote. It’s also her hope that students, many participating in their first presidential election, maintain their interest in politics.

“I’d like to see sustained activism on campus,” Dominguez said. “I would like the people who are interested in serious public affairs to recognize that there are a lot of other people on campus also interested in public affairs and are serious about the world around them. By having these (election) events and letting people see that ‘Oh, there are people here I don’t know,’ it helps them feel more comfortable. It’s OK to be serious about the world and to think about politics and government and public affairs and international relations. I want people to be more comfortable about expressing their views, to do so respectfully and to understand it’s OK to disagree about policy.”

Dominguez also appreciates the support from several organizations, including Student Affairs, Community and Government Relations, Residential Life, United Front Multicultural Center, Women’s Center and the Center for Christian Spirituality, for hosting and promoting USD political events.

“There are many staff and faculty members who are very passionate about having the students be interested in the world around them,” she said. “It’s been a really good learning process about the whole university and I’m delighted by all the people I’ve met along the way. I hope to work with them again in four years.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

For more information about Casey Dominguez, which includes resources for students and election links, go to: http://home.sandiego.edu/~caseydominguez/

For more information about USD’s election events and voting information, go to: www.sandiego.edu/vote

For more Inside USD election coverage and information, go to: www.sandiego.edu/insideusd/?page_id=477

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