Good morning from our nation’s capitol! I traveled to Washington, D.C. yesterday for the launch of the University’s newest outreach program, Research on the Road. The concept? To bring faculty researchers to locations around the country with active alumni chapters for lively conversations on timely topics.
We could not have had better partners for our inaugural Research on the Road event than the dynamic folks of the Metro D.C. Penn State alumni chapter!
We gathered in the Holeman Lounge at the historic and centrally located National Press Club (where chapter board member Joshua Funk is on staff) and the vivacious crowd of alumni were in a great mood for some after-work hours learning, some networking, and some festive drinks and nibbles.
Penn State political science professor (and academic director of the University’s Survey Research Center) Eric Plutzer (below) got us all thinking with some fascinating (and non-partisan!) food-for-thought.
His topic? How we form our political opinions, affiliations and voting behavior–and how and why we react to negative campaign ads. Think we’ll be seeing any of those in the months ahead? There were some laughs, nods of agreement, and even a shock or two at some slides Eric showed us. (DC folks, are you still picturing that spider image? For those who weren’t there, how would you react to a photo of a spider crawling on someone’s face? This brought out the point that conservatives and liberals have been found to have different biological reflexes when viewing startling images.)
The crowd of alumni definitely grasped that these gatherings are discussions, not lectures, and jumped right in with lots of excellent questions. A+ to you all!
Exciting events like Research on the Road only happen with the support and on-the-ground work of dedicated people. We appreciate the support of University Relations VP Bill Mahon. It was great to have him in attendance for the launch last night.
And we definitely could not have pulled off the successful evening without the enthusiastic help of Metro DC chapter president Dave Fites (’02) and board member Josh Funk (’04) as well as Andrew Fett (’01). If anyone reading this wants to bring Research on the Road to their alumni chapter, give me a shout.
Interesting to note that Andrew just helped found the Smeal Business Club DC, a networking and prof group for Smeal College of Business grads in the metro DC area. (Check facebook and LinkedIn for more info!)
Speaking of social media, these guys were all over it in promoting our event, as were Penn State’s own social media team. With help like this, look for #researchontheroad trending strong in the months ahead!
Remember, there are (usually?) real live people behind all that tweeting–and behind the blogging too, so I’ll close with a photo of yours truly with that iconic National Press Club sign. Where are we headed next? Stay tuned!