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Pierce College students tackle social issues through Town Hall

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Instructors at Pierce College have announced plans to host an interdisciplinary “Town Hall” based on the nationally recognized California State University, Chico model.

The Town Hall will feature discussions on six topics: homelessness, climate change, immigration, gender equality, mental health, and disparities in the criminal justice system.

Students involved have already begun their research and will be working closely with experts in many fields to prepare and deliver presentations that explore a specific problem and introduce a solution.

Associate professor of political science Denise Robb is the event’s main organizer, and has involved many departments to ensure a well-rounded perspective.

“We have English, we have anthropology, we have math, we have communications, criminal justice, philosophy, geography, and political science…that’s just for our pilot program. This is our first time doing it,” Robb said.

Robb said she’s been surprised by the number of students who have become involved in the Town Hall.

“We thought we were going to start out with 150 students and we’re up to 730 now,” Robb said.

Both faculty and students are at-work preparing for the meeting. Michael McGee, treasurer for the ASO, is the student associate working directly with the administration.

“I’m the student assistant to Professor Robb, I help her with anything she needs,” McGee said.

McGee said his duties include reaching out to potential moderators and experts, updating the Town Hall’s Facebook page and ensuring the event’s planning is properly organized.

Robb said data suggests the Town Hall meetings have a greater effect on minority students.

“At the Town Hall, [minority students] start to feel a connection to the real world,” Robb said. “They’re meeting with professionals in the real world, they’re sharing their ideas. They’re coming up with solutions to real problems.”

Instructor of Sociology Anna Bruzzese is among those whose classes will participate in the Town Hall.

“I really believe in it. I believe it’s one of those innovations in general education that we need more of to meet the needs of today’s students,” said Bruzzese. “It’s been proven to work, so hopefully it works for us.”

The Town Hall event will take place Friday, May 1, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. More information can be found on the Pierce College Town Hall Facebook page, or by contacting Denise Robb at (818) 712-2660.