Mississippi Policy Partners Project

The HLS Mississippi Delta Project’s Mississippi Policy Partners will engage Harvard students (HLS and HKS) to work with students from Mississippi’s Tougaloo College and Mississippi legislators in order to prepare them for the start of the 2011 legislative session.  The project will involve mandatory travel to Mississippi (expenses paid) for a long weekend in November (probably November 12-14) in order to present an interdisciplinary training on policymaking and the legislative process to the Tougaloo College students and meet with the legislators.  Harvard students will spend fall semester preparing individual modules for this training.  Law students will be able to apply the work completed this fall towards Harvard’s pro bono requirement. In addition, law students will have the option of continuing with the project in January and earning independent clinical credit for the winter term. Applications (along with a resume) are due by 5:00 pm on Friday, October 1 via email to cmckenna@mit.edu.

About the Project

Mississippi Policy Partners is a partnership between students at Harvard Law School and Kennedy School, Tougaloo College (a historically black college in Jackson, Mississippi), the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, and One Voice, a Jackson-based non-profit. The objective of the program is to engage Harvard students in the real-time policy arena in Mississippi by pairing them with members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus to work on emerging policy issues in the 2011 Legislative Session. Additionally, Harvard students will serve as mentors to undergraduates from Tougaloo who will be legislative interns during the 2011 legislative session.

In Mississippi, the legislative session is short, running only from January-March each year. In this brief time, legislators are faced with thousands of pages of bills and policy recommendations, and are expected to support or reject legislation based on the information contained in those documents. Legislators have no support staff to provide them with white papers, issue briefs, talking points or analysis of pending legislation, all necessary tools in the legislative decision making process. Despite the many barriers faced by these state policymakers, the decisions being made each session have far-reaching effects on the lives of Mississippians including some of the most vulnerable populations in America. One Voice, the non-profit arm of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP recognizes the need for capacity building within the state legislature in terms of research support. In response, One Voice has created a program through which students will work together to provide legislators with much needed research support, and students can gain real-time experience in the policy arena. This project will be partnered with the Harvard Law School Mississippi Delta Project.

Mississippi Policy Partners is a great way for Harvard students to get involved, gain real policy experience, and make a difference in issues that face some of the poorest communities in the nation. Harvard students will travel to Mississippi for a long weekend in November 2010 (likely the weekend of November 12) to take part in an interdisciplinary training session in which each group will educate the others on their unique skills sets that cover the range of how laws and policies are made and implemented. HLS students will educate the group on issues such as where law comes from and how it is made, federal versus state law, statute versus common law, etc. They will also have the opportunity to learn from the Mississippi stakeholders about pressing legislative and policy issues and to assist with the formulation of ideas for how these issues can be resolved in the 2011 legislative session.

Harvard students selected for the additional winter component will travel to Jackson to work with the Tougaloo students and help a legislator draft and advocate for one or two key legislative agenda items. Harvard students will also prepare additional trainings on areas of need expressed by the Tougaloo students and the legislators. HLS students interested in participating in the winter term project will apply separately to the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs and will be able to receive independent clinical credit for their winter work.

Timeline

Harvard students will submit applications by October 1, 2010. Once students are selected for the project, they will participate in a Cambridge-based training to learn more about skills and tactics that they can use in this interdisciplinary work, as well as learning about some of the unique issues facing the Mississippi legislature. To get a copy of the application, email Cyd McKenna at cmckenna@mit.edu.

Throughout the fall semester, the Harvard students will prepare training modules that they will present at a group training in Mississippi with Tougaloo students and Mississippi legislators. The training will be held over a long weekend in November (likely the weekend of November 12). HLS student modules will focus on general concepts in the American legal system as well as the legal aspects of the legislative process in Mississippi. HLS students will meet with the on-campus student project leader once per week to prepare their training materials, brainstorm topics, and give each other feedback on the materials. Preparation for the fall training will be supervised by Emily Broad, Senior Clinical Fellow in the Health Law and Policy Clinic.

Harvard students will travel to Jackson, Mississippi the weekend of November 12 for a long weekend to present the seminar on the above topics, meet with the Tougaloo students and legislators, and prepare the Tougaloo students for the beginning of the legislative session. The HLS students will meet the legislators to learn about the current and upcoming policy issues and will participate in seminars led by guest speakers, politicians and other facilitators on the following topics:

  • Leadership and teambuilding
  • Networking
  • Constituent relations and coalition building
  • Political campaigns
  • Press and media relations
  • Framing, messaging and image
  • Ethics and reflective practice

Winter Term: On or before October 19, 2010 (the application deadline for winter independent clinical proposals) HLS students will have the option to apply to continue this project as an independent clinical during winter term. Winter term students will receive two credits and will be supervised by an HLS professor chosen by the student. If accepted to continue in winter, the students will spend January 2011 in Jackson and will work with their team to research and advocate for one or two major legislative agenda items, to be selected by the HLS student in conjunction with the legislator. The students will be provided with preliminary research and information related to these legislative priority topics so they will have a starting place to begin their work. The HLS students will serve as a resource for questions or assistance needed by their team and will help review and interpret legislation. The Supervising Attorney for the winter work will be Yumeka Rushing, a Mississippi attorney and legal consultant with the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP.

Application

Please submit the following materials to Cyd McKenna at cmckenna@mit.edu by 5pm EST on Friday, October 1.

Questions

For questions about the project, please contact Cyd McKenna at cmckenna@mit.edu.  For questions about the pro bono requirement or independent clinical guidelines, please contact the HLS Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs at clinical@law.harvard.edu. 

Last modified: August 20, 2011

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