Get to Know: Alberto Olivas

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We’ll talk to Alberto Olivas, executive director for the Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics & Public Service in the ASU College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Jose Cardenas: Alberto Olivas is the first executive director for the congressman Ed Pastor center for politics and public service in the college of public service and community solutions. The center honors Congressman Pastor and his legacy of service in Arizona and the nation it encourages political engagement and public service in the community. Joining me is Alberto Olivas. First congratulations on your appointment. We have a picture of the Congressman that we'll put up on the screen. It really is about Ed pastor and public service and community solutions. Give us a sense for what the center intends to do and how it intends to do it.

Alberto Olivas: The center is designed to be and is intended to be a connecting point for students to figure out how did they attach the things that they are interested in, the problems that they see in the world around them, to ways to get involved in those issues and public policy. Specifically, connect the dots between what they are learning in their classes and how to make things happen in the real world. That's really speak to one of the concerns students have, the feeling that sometimes some of their classes don't seem to have meaning in terms of stuff they really care about and the problems they see happening in the world and they lack the skills to get engaged effectively within public policy. So in one sense you could say the pastor center is looking to address this trend of what we call the de-politicization of college students. It's something scholars have been looking at over the years, comparing the political activism and movement born in the '60s and '70s on college campuses that you don't really see any more today. One way of looking at the problem is that over time colleges and universities civic engagement efforts have trended to be either the noncontroversial nonpolitical service kind of civic engagement where students are doing volunteer and community service work or the very sharply adversarial civic engagement kind of speech and debate or expressly partisan efforts by young Democrats and college Republicans.

Jose Cardenas: Where would you -- we have been seeing this in supporters for Bernie Sanders. That kind of enthusiasm. Is it bad? Is it good? Is it temporal?

Alberto Olivas: It's a great starting place. One of the reasons we need programs like the pastor center is to help students return the skills of political engagement. All the ways that that looks so that once they have been gotten fired up about political issues and community issues that they are prepared to then engage effectively in the processes. A lot of what college universities have done in the past is a good job at recruiting students to say, hey, you need to get involved, but aren't doing that effectively. We're firing students out and then are frustrated and burn out. An unintended lesson for them, I guess I'm not very good at being a political leader.

Jose Cardenas: I want to make sure we get our second picture on the screen. Among the people involved are former colleagues of the center. Of the Congressman, Senator Kyl, here talking to students.

Alberto Olivas: He's been a great friend to not only the Congressman but to the center and has been very supportive of our efforts. I'm glad you brought that up. It's important to emphasize the former mayor Scott Smith says sometimes people don't realize how revered Congressman Pastor was in Washington D.C. --

Jose Cardenas: On both sides of the aisle.

Alberto Olivas: Getting things done for solutions that helped get everyone what they need.

Jose Cardenas: On that note we have to end the interview. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

Jose Cardenas: That's our show for tonight. Thanks for watching. From all of us I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

Video: "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Alberto Olivas: Executive Director for the Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics & Public Service in the ASU College of Public Service and Community Solutions

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