By Sean Robinson, Reporter
Beginning this semester, former Sen. Ben Nelson will be partnering with UNO’s Political Science department as the “Politician-in-Residence,” holding lectures on foreign policy and assisting in teaching upper-division courses each semester.
“I think having a politician help to teach the material will make the content seem more relevant,” said Alonso Garza, a junior who has taken courses through the department. “Politics is such an important part of society, and I think having Ben Nelson in the department will only further cement that idea.”
On March 28 at 11:30 a.m. Nelson will hold a lecture at the university in the CPACS collaborating commons with Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, professor of political science, titled “The Impact of Hyper-partisanship on American Foreign Policy.”
The lecture was originally scheduled for Feb. 21, but snow caused the university to cancel all events scheduled on campus that day.
Benjamin-Alvarado will be requiring his Foreign Policy course students to attend the lecture, whom he said are well-prepared with questions to ask the former politician, but the lecture is open to all UNO faculty, staff and students.
The lecture is scheduled to have Nelson talk for the first 20 minutes and the rest of the time is to be left for questioning. Nelson, a democrat who has worked with Republicans as a legislator on both the local and national political scene will speak about how partisanship in Congress has hindered the foreign policy process.
“Even though I am not in any political science courses right now, I plan on attending because I think it is a great opportunity,” Garza said. “How many other chances are you going to get to interact and have a structured and formal conversation with a senator?”
Beyond his lecture on the 28th, Nelson will also speak the following week on April 2.
The senator will be with UNO for the next couple of years, even having a newly-prepared office in Arts and Sciences, and assisting in courses regarding U.S. foreign policy and legislative politics.
“It’s attractive to is because he will be covering issues that go beyond partisanship,” Benjamin-Alvarado said. “He will be talking about politics as the art of getting things done, moving beyond gridlock and speaking on best practices in the legislature.”
Benjamin-Alvarado said Nelson will remain neutral in his lectures and classes instead of letting his democratic past color his verbiage.
Beyond his background in the legislature, insurance and law, Nelson also taught philosophy as a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“He certainly has a background in instructing,” Benjamin-Alvarado said.
“It’s nice because the information is coming straight from the source, someone who has a history with this stuff. He will be talking in-depth about the problems we confront as a nation in foreign policy.”
Serving as a senator for Nebraska from 2001 to 2013, Nelson was also elected as the state’s 37th governor in 1990 and 1994. He announced in 2011 that he would not seek a third Senate term in 2012.
Benjamin-Alvarado said that the department is enthusiastic for the chance to work with Nelson, and it was Nelson who originally approached UNO about the partnership.
While UNO has brought in several politicians before as guest speakers, this is the first time the political science department has had a de facto politician-in-residence.
The department hopes to bring in someone from the other side of the political spectrum, a conservative republican, Benjamin-Alvarado said.
Nelson’s lectures this semester will tie directly to U.S. Foreign Policy students’ syllabi and cover topics directly related to the curriculum.
“I’m personally excited because this is an opportunity for the literature to come to life,” Benjamin-Alvarado said. “Students are going to walk away from this with insights they otherwise wouldn’t get.”