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ASU business students take over Arizona Senate in public policy exercise

ASU business students Megan Faust, Matt Anderson (second and third from left) and classmates receive guidance from Cox proctors during the executive MBA Business Strategy and Public Policy course.

July 24, 2015

Forty students from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University recently took over the Arizona State Senate building in a role-playing exercise designed to introduce them to the legislative process and to develop the skills necessary to be effective in the public policy arena.

The intensive workshop, designed and administered by Cox Communications through a partnership with ASU professor of management Gerry Keim, is one of only a dozen or so classes of its kind in the nation to be offered to executive MBA students.

“This is a unique opportunity for executive, master’s-level students, many of whom are interested in becoming business leaders, to learn about the processes at work at the state and national level and where they can have an influence throughout the process,” Keim said.

The course assigns each MBA student a role of advocate, state senator or representative. The class then elects a governor, Senate president and speaker of the house who appoint subcommittee assignments.

To prepare for their role, students hear from top officials and legislative leaders about the state budget and the legislative process. This year the students heard from Senate President Andy Biggs, Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro and House Minority Leader Eric Meyer, as well as the assistant director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting. Local lobbyists also shared their experience in the role of an advocate.

With the preparation complete, an abbreviated state budget is introduced and students break into their respective house and senate groups and interact based on their roles to pass a new balanced budget as required by the Arizona constitution. Students experience first-hand the multi-faceted budget process by participating in hearings, meeting with advocates and voting in committees. In the afternoon of the last day, students proceeded to the floor of the senate, sitting at the desks of current senators, for the final budget vote.

“Participating in this budget exercise in the Arizona State Senate was eye opening,” said Matt Anderson, a physician who was elected senate minority leader. “We got a real-world experience in how to navigate the state budget process. I now have a new understanding of the delicate balance our state leaders must find each budget session.”

Reflecting the real process, the group had difficulty reaching a consensus on a unified budget. In the last hour and after two days of negotiation, the group voted in a slight tax increase, balancing the budget and completing the exercise.

The class will go to Washington, D.C. later in July to learn about the federal process.

“Our founder, James Cox, believed in community and civic involvement.” said Michelle Bolton, director of government relations for Cox Communications. “Some of the ways he led by example include serving as governor and as a member of congress for Ohio and running for president in 1920. To follow this corporate commitment, for the last 9 years, Cox has been proud to partner with ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business to help educate students on the democratic process in our state.”

Cathy Chlarson,
W. P. Carey School of Business

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