Yager Hall, Hartwick College valley view from Oyaron Hill

Institute of Public Service

The Hartwick College Institute of Public Service is dedicated to strengthening democracy across the region by serving as a hub of collaboration and innovation between state and local government, and through civic engagement and legal studies.

Next Generation of Public Servants

A nonprofit, nonpartisan, regional political community, the institute seeks to educate the next generation of public servants and inspire legal professionals and government officials to meaningfully engage in our democracy through three supporting areas: Local and State Government, Civic Engagement, and Legal Education.

High School Essay/Video Competition

The Hartwick Institute of Public Service is proud to invite any high school student in Chenango, Delaware, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Onondaga, Otsego and Schoharie Counties to submit a short essay or video suggesting creative ways to better engage young people in democracy.

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2023 Constitution Day Talk

New York State Assembly Member Jen Lunsford '04  joined us to celebrate Constitution Day and the creation of the Hartwick Institute of Public Service. She will present "We The People" Includes You.

Young people, as a whole, don’t vote. It’s a stereotype that is proven true in the data. In 2022, roughly 23% of eligible young people voted in the November election, nationwide. That included a fresh crop of over 8 million new voters who had turned 18 since the last even-year election. In the last election, control of the House of Representatives was decided by just over 3 million votes. Young people have the power. They just aren’t using it.

In this talk, Lunsford discussed how young people can swing elections and make the kind of monumental, historic changes in policy we need to build a country that can survive the century.

Tuesday, September 19
4 p.m.
Anderson Theatre, Anderson Center for the Arts

Recording of 2023 Constitution Day Talk

Jen Lunsford ’04 is the New York State Assemblymember for the 135th Assembly District, which serves the eastern portion of Monroe County (near Rochester). Originally from Long Island, she earned a dual degree in philosophy and political science magna cum laude from Hartwick College. While at Hartwick, she won the annual Mehri Political Science Best Senior Thesis Award, presented to a student who best demonstrates understanding of a critical issue facing society, for her submission addressing First Amendment issues. After graduation, Assemblymember Lunsford earned a J.D. from Boston University Law School, and practiced law in Monroe County for 11 years before pursuing public office. She was elected to the Assembly in 2020, and was reelected in 2022. In 2022, CNN published a story about her involvement in a Rochester tradition of commemorating the struggle for women’s suffrage by visiting the gravesite of Susan B. Anthony.

While at Hartwick, she was nominated by the political science department for the prestigious John Christopher Hartwick Scholarship. She helped found the College’s chapter of Phi Sigma Tau, the International Honor Society in Philosophy, and served as vice president of Judicial Affairs for Student Senate. Assemblymember Lunsford has remained active with the College since graduation. She has mentored students by hosting a Career HOP in Albany, NY, and served as a guest speaker for Dr. Laurel Elder’s “Parties and Elections” class.


Hartwick students on the floor of the NY State Assembly, Albany , NY

Career Networking and Mentoring

The institute offers a range of local public service based internships and career opportunities. It also hosts events that encourage public servants in all branches of government to connect and engage with young people.

Hartwick College students with Professor of Political Science Laurel Elder

Problem Solving

Through projects embedded into course material. Hartwick students are able to work directly with local elected officials to formulate potential solutions and policy recommendations.

James Seward, Former NY State Senator and Hartwick College alumnus

Continuing Education and Professional Training

Offering meaningful professional training opportunities for local elected officials, the institute offers continuing education courses on a variety of topics such as financial management, municipal leadership, and the legal framework of towns and villages.


Hartwick College student asking question during forum discussion

Creative Civic Engagement Programs

The institute sponsors civic engagement programs to ensure that students and community members are informed about local, state, and national political issues. Events are designed to increase participation in elections and to promote debate on important issues using civil discourse.

Anthony Delgado speaking with students at Hartwick College

Debates and Visits by Elected Officials

A catalyst for candidate forums, debates, and visits by elected officials, the institute hosts debates for public offices and offers students and local elected officials opportunities to engage and learn from one another. All candidate forums are bipartisan and all candidates and viewpoints are welcome.

Hartwick College students on the Hartwick campus on election day celebrating casting their vote.

Voter Registration and Turnout Activities

To increase turnout and registration, the institute conducts voter drives on campus and in the community. Programs and resources are developed to increase participation and to ensure that all voters are informed about issues on the ballot. The institute also partners with the Otsego County Board of Elections to provide poll worker training for students.

Hartwick student asking a question during a lecture on campus

High School Outreach

Working closely with civics, history and government K-12 teachers and guidance counselors, the institute creates initiatives and activities to promote civic engagement and dialogue.

Hartwick political science professor Laurel Elder speaking with David Axelrod during community forum

Speaker Events

The institute hosts high profile speaker events, including Hartwick’s annual Constitution Day and Leslie G. Rude Memorial lectures. The speaker series is open to all community members, including local high school students.

"By being elected to 17 terms in the State Senate, I know firsthand how important civic engagement is to a strong democracy. The Institute is strengthening our democracy by promoting civic and political involvement and the civil discussion and debate of the important issues of our times."

James L. Seward '73, H"99

New York State Senator

“Being a part of Hartwick’s Institute of Public Service has been an amazing experience. I’ve met and worked with so many wonderful people and wouldn’t trade my time here for the world!”

Michael Christian '24

Institute of Public Service Intern
Political Science & Business Administration Double Major, Computer Science Minor

"I am excited at the prospect of Hartwick’s Institute of Public Service becoming a propelling mechanism to Oneonta’s best and most inclusive governance; one that is informed and made more vital by the engagement of our student community."

Mark Drnek

City of Oneonta Mayor

"Hartwick College’s Institute for Public Service is inspiring and preparing the next generation of public servants at a time of great need and opportunity. Hartwick’s Institute is also providing an essential forum for state and local innovation, collaboration and relationship building."

Matt Chase '93, CEO/Executive Director

National Association of Counties

"The new Institute of Public Service is a great way to get young professionals first hand exposure to day-to-day public service and give to the community they’re spending their time in, while adding a great resource for local government to tap into new ideas and experiences."

Skylar Thompson '19

Oneonta Town Council


Hartwick students with visiting lawyer for campus networking experiences

Legal Professionals Network

The institute supports a network of Hartwick alumni and legal professionals to support our legal studies and criminal legal system programs.

Lawyers discussing human rights cases during panel discussion at Hartwick College

Continuing Education

The institute provides continuing education for judges and other legal professionals.

Hartwick College students with Professor of Political Science Laurel Elder

Legal Preparation

Offering a robust range of interdisciplinary courses, programming, and opportunities, the institute supports Hartwick students interested in exploring careers in law.

Our Co-Directors

Laurel Elder

Professor of Political Science and Department Chair

Matthew Chick

Assistant Professor of Political Science & Pre-Law Program Coordinator

Zachary McKenney

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Hartwick College Institute of Public Service

Hartwick College
Departments of
Political Science & Sociology, Criminology, and Human Services
Let us know how the Institute can partner with you to strengthen our democracy.