When I first walked into Harrison Hall, the home of the political science department, I noticed two things. First, the cozy chairs and couches on the first floor proudly echo the lively conversations between professors and students in the hallways. Second, the gloomy atmosphere compliments a place that has endured history and therefore demands respect.
This aura is bureaucratic, and although nobody likes bureaucracy, the spirit of Harrison Hall is so encompassing that it will crack even the toughest person and make them feel like being a student at Miami University is important and elegant work. If there is one place on campus where Miami feels like a movie, it has to be Harrison Hall.
What makes Harrison Hall so unique is not only the mission it has set for itself — to educate students on politics when times are shaky — but also the people who give it substance.
The moment you set foot on the third floor’s narrow hallway, you will feel the heaviness of the ground below you. The third floor houses three distinct yet interconnected institutions: the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, the Menard Family Center for Democracy and the Center for Public Management and Regional Affairs (CPMRA).
Managed by different faculty and individuals passionate about the student experience, these three centers bridge the global and local aims in teaching and learning. Although students are always welcomed into these spaces, a truly commemorating aspect of the work of these centers is the focus on fostering relations between the university, the surrounding communities and the global world.
Despite serving as a pillar of the community, I was not familiar with the work of the Harrison Hall centers and how it could impact me before heavily leaning on my political science major. Many students at Miami go their entire time never knowing the impact the hall can have.
Even if you are not in any way part of the political science department, you’ve surely seen posters, flyers and banners about the events these centers put on. The Havighurst Center, for example, constantly brings leaders from around the world to campus. The Menard Center hosts the JANUS forum each semester, bringing together community members to passionately debate opposing views, oftentimes on pressing issues.
The programs administered by the centers make an enormous impact on maintaining the public fabric of Miami as an educational institution. Despite an abundance of on-campus advertising, many students miss out on these rich opportunities which would leave them with knowledge and stories for decades to come.
The CPMRA aims to foster a commitment to our local community by serving townships and their local governments. It is yet another example of a hugely impactful, but often unseen force emanating from Harrison Hall.
Patrick Haney, director of the CPMRA, believes that the beauty in starting locally is that you are given the chance to “make a difference on the ground almost immediately.” Students’ potential to envision themselves as the local leaders of tomorrow is what makes the student experience central to the work of the CPMRA.
Students need to take advantage of these programs and offerings both for themselves and for future generations of students, or else we might lose them.
Ever since Miami began considering consolidating or cutting several language and humanities majors, I have been asking myself whether the recent absence of students’ curiosity and willingness to get out of their comfort played a role in this decision.
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The existence of such a place as Harrison Hall, unique in its design and offerings, is one of the most important figures a university can have.
The Havighurst Center goes beyond language and, through its programming, brings what is far away close to home and makes the otherness of the other disappear. The Menard Center fosters democratic discourse in a time when democracy feels less than sturdy. The CPMRA works hard to grow local government and make Oxford a better place for us all.
When the fabric of the world as we know it feels like it is being torn apart, knowing that I can wake up every morning and see Harrison Hall through the window of my residence hall brings me joy.
As a student here at Miami, it is not just a few random options in a hall you’ve never been inside. It is your responsibility to grow yourself, taking advantage of all the opportunities we have.
You won’t be able to use these incredible programs once you graduate. So, take advantage of them. You won’t regret it.
Anastasija Mladenovska is a second-year political science, finance and Russian, East European & Eurasian studies triple major from Macedonia. She is involved with the Honors College and Scholar Leaders. She also volunteers for the League of Women Voters of Oxford.