New Hartwick College Institute of Public Service to Prepare Students for Public Service Careers and Strengthen Democracy

Through Regional Collaboration

Hartwick College has launched a new Institute of Public Service that will strengthen democracy across the region by collaborating with state, county, and local governments, preparing young people to be engaged and informed citizens, and providing legal programming and professional development. The launch of the institute is particularly timely as it will prepare students for the thousands of state government job openings projected over the next several years.  

“At this point in our nation’s journey, it is critical that colleges and universities play a major role in leading the conversations that bring people with different perspectives together,” said Hartwick College President Darren Reisberg. “Building on our strong foundation of expertise in the study of democracy, our connections to state and local elected officials, and a track record of facilitating outreach and training programs, the institute will ensure that Hartwick College is a leading voice in those conversations.”

James Seward ‘73, a well-respected former New York State senator and tireless advocate for the region, strongly supports the institute. 

“I am so pleased with the establishment of the Hartwick College Institute of Public Service,“ said Seward. “As a former staff member in the New York State Legislature and 34-year member of the New York State Senate, I proudly spent my entire career in public service. Public service offers a unique opportunity to move our state and local communities forward in positive ways and to improve the lives of our residents. The institute is preparing the next generation of public service professionals to carry on this important work.”

Through three supporting areas – local and state government, civic engagement and legal studies – the nonpartisan institute aims to work with local, county and state government officials, and legal professionals to educate and inspire the next generation of public servants and strengthen democracy. 


Through connections with alumni and community partners, the institute will connect Hartwick students with internships, networking opportunities and real-world work opportunities in state, local and county governments.

The institute will work directly with community stakeholders to identify issues facing our region and offer potential solutions and policy recommendations through research and project-based learning.

Local elected officials will also be invited to utilize the institute for their own continuing education and professional development through topics such as financial management, municipal leadership, and the legal framework of towns and villages. 

Laurel Elder, professor and chair of political science and one of the three co-directors of the institute, is looking forward to strengthening the relationship between Hartwick and government officials in our region. “By attending local meetings and interning in government offices, students gain insights into possible public service careers, as well as how to affect meaningful change in their communities,” said Elder.  “Our local governments are making decisions that affect young people, and young people should have a voice in those decisions.” 


The institute is built around a robust civic engagement core made possible through visits with high-profile speakers and elected officials. To encourage voter engagement among students and community members, the institute will offer various educational opportunities such as speakers, debates and town hall meetings to celebrate and highlight significant contributions to democracy and public service. The institute has also partnered with several key stakeholders in the community, such as the United Way of Mid Rural New York.      

Voter registration drives, high school outreach, rides to the polls and get-out-the-vote events will allow students to make their voices heard at the ballot box. Students will train to become poll workers through the institute and in partnership with the Otsego County Board of Elections.

Zachary McKenney, assistant professor of sociology, will lead the civic engagement activities of the institute. 

“Democracy is not something we can take for granted,” said McKenney. “It requires active participation from all citizens. Through the institute’s efforts to get involved in our communities and government, we can make a difference and help create a better future for all.”


The institute will lead efforts to prepare students to enter the legal community by engaging them with Hartwick faculty and alumni who are passionate about the law and who use legal skills for the public good. With interdisciplinary coursework, programming, as well as intern and mentorships, Hartwick students will be exposed to a diverse array of careers in law.

Additionally, judges and legal professionals from across New York State, and especially in the local area, will be invited to engage with the institute through continuing education offerings and opportunities.

Matt Chick, assistant professor of political science and coordinator for the legal studies program, will head up the institute’s efforts in preparing all those passionate about the law with the latest legal knowledge and skills.

“The law plays a uniquely important role when thinking about public service. Student passion and engagement are great, but to be effective in the legal arena, one needs to develop and practice a specific set of skills and knowledge. The institute’s activities are designed to help students recognize what those skills are and enhance them. Moreover, it will establish Hartwick as a hub for those local professionals already engaging in these activities to develop these talents further and network,” Chick said.

New Hartwick College Institute of Public Service to Prepare Students for Public Service Careers and Strengthen Democracy Through Regional Collaboration

The Institute of Public Service will be officially launched at 4 p.m. on September 19 in the Anderson Theatre of the Anderson Center for the Arts

The event, hosted by Hartwick College President Darren Reisberg, and featuring Assemblymember Jen Lunsford ’04, will celebrate Constitution Day and National Voter Registration Day.

Lunsford, who represents New York State Assembly District 135, will discuss how she hopes to inspire Americans, particularly young voters, to actively engage in our democracy.

For more information about NYS Assemblymember Lunsford ’04 and the September 19 event, and to learn more about the Hartwick Institute of Public Service, visit


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