Bipartisan Issues Group strives to find solutions
While congressional gridlock in Washington continues to attract public ire and media attention, a UW–Madison student organization is working to promote bipartisanship across campus.
The Bipartisan Issues Group, or BIG, has entered its third year on campus. According to the group’s mission statement, its goal is to “prove that realistic solutions to America’s . . . toughest problems do indeed exist.”
Rachel Kirsch, president of BIG, has been with the group since its inception. She received an invitation to “like” the club’s page on Facebook and decided to get involved from there.
Kirsch, who plans to major in political science and marketing, believes that bipartisanship is key to the government’s success.
“(BIG’s purpose) is to open up a dialogue between people of our generation on current events and political issues in a bipartisan way, with the sole intent of realizing these things are solvable,” Kirsch says.
To appeal to a wide audience, BIG focuses on a variety of topics, ranging from educational reform to drone usage. The organization also tries to bring in a new speaker each month. Past speakers include UW professors and politicians like Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.
The group promotes itself across campus primarily through networking and word of mouth. It has sent emails to students majoring in political science, economics, education and business school departments, knowing that these fields have high interest in public policy issues.
“In my position now, I would like to take on topics that relate to our student body a little bit more, whether that’s student loans or social policy,” Kirsch says. “Things that our generation is aware of and not particularly divided on.”
“When you sit down in a room with educated and willing people, solutions are very easy to find. If a bunch of college kids can do it in a room, then our own government can do it as well.”
Despite the relative youth of the club, it has already expanded to include chapters at the University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois, overseen by a Madison-based national board. While further university expansion is not a priority at this time, there is hope that the national board will eventually expand to include people from all across the country.
This past May, the three chapters of BIG met to talk about the status of their clubs and discuss society’s most pressing issues. Kirsch says it was helpful to pull ideas from other group leaders.
“It’s really shown me that when you sit down in a room with educated and willing people, solutions are very easy to find,” Kirsch says. “If a bunch of college kids can do it in a room, then our own government can do it as well.”
— Jim Dayton