Becoming Good Citizens

Office of Participatory Democracy Provides “Good Training for Life”
Teaching Professor Bill Horner

Bill Horner, a teaching professor of political science, has created the Office of Participatory Democracy to lend support to activities which give students the opportunity to apply lessons learned in the classroom to more practical situations.

Jordan Yount
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science
Political Science

When it comes to faculty advisers, Bill Horner has been the go-to guy in political science. Every few years, the MU professor says he has been approached by members of a student organization seeking a faculty adviser. Horner says it started about a dozen years ago, when a student asked him to be the faculty adviser for Mizzou’s Model United Nations (UN) organization. A few years later, students participating in Model UN asked Horner if he’d also be willing to be the faculty adviser for the debate team, and he agreed. Then last year, Horner revived the political science department’s judicial processes class and taught it during the spring semester. That course included a moot court, in which students research their respective sides, write appellate briefs and present oral arguments in front of judges, and Horner says some of his students mentioned they also participated on Mizzou’s mock trial team, which just happened to need a faculty adviser.

“In the course of all of that, it occurred to me that these are similar activities, and maybe they could benefit from pooling the resources I’ve been able to gather,” Horner says. “I started thinking if I could create some kind of umbrella for these groups, that could create some potential for fundraising.”

A Seed Takes Root

Horner discussed his idea with (now) Interim Provost Jim Spain, his department chair Moises Arce, Associate Arts and Science Dean Ted Tarkow and others, all of whom helped to vet his ideas and suggested avenues for potential fundraising. Horner also credits A&S Dean Pat Okker for chipping in resources to create the new Office of Participatory Democracy (OPD), as well as facilitating a couple of graduate assistants and a website for the new office.

“The whole objective, in my mind, was that it’s a way to help recruit students,” Horner says. “We have a lot of students who like to do these activities, especially here in Columbia.” For example, he says one of his daughters participates in Model UN at Rock Bridge High School and another daughter is on the high school’s debate team. “That’s the motivating thing—to create opportunities to bring students here and make them want to stay here.”

Citizenship Training

Horner says most of the students who participate in mock trial and debate tend to go to law school, but that’s not the case with Model UN. He says the current president of Model UN is a biology major who plans to go to medical school, and the group typically is composed of a variety of majors. Horner says his next initiative is to include the undergraduate moot court association under the OPD umbrella and expand that program since students have expressed a lot of interest in that organization during his judicial processes class.Central Missouri State Universit He also wants to try to elevate the debate team to the status of an athletic team at MU, as it is on many campuses across the country, including the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Central Missouri.

“At a minimum, these organizations give students a useful extracurricular activity,” Horner says. “Part of the reason why I thought these would work together and thought of calling it the Office of Participatory Democracy is these all provide good training for being citizens of the country and of the world. That’s the value of the OPD—it engages students, it’s intellectual activity, it’s good training for life, and I hope it’s a way of attracting and retaining students.”

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