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Midwest Matters

Barry McNamara
07/12/2011
Monmouth College political science lecturer Robin Johnson
As part of its ongoing “Midwest Matters” initiative, Monmouth College political science lecturer Robin Johnson recently represented the college at a meeting of the Midwest Governors Association (MGA) last month in Columbus, Ohio.

Johnson was one of only two representatives from higher education at the conference, which attracted more than 50 participants from nine Midwestern states. Titled “Advancing the New Energy Economy in the Midwest,” the conference focused on ways states could coordinate their efforts in energy policy, efficiency and economic development.

The MGA regularly brings together state economic development, workforce, environmental and energy officials because of the importance of regional collaboration to future job growth and development. Also in attendance at the meeting were representatives from the manufacturing, agriculture and energy industries, as well as venture capital and technology.

“MGA staff reached out to Monmouth College several years ago after reading about our ‘Midwest Matters’ initiative,” said Johnson. “We’ve been in close contact with them since then and have discussed collaborative ventures including research opportunities for students. For example, I solicited some research ideas from MGA staff and other conference participants for my Citizenship class in January.”

Other potential collaborative opportunities that have been discussed include “hands-on” internship opportunities and Monmouth students developing a video for MGA on “What It Means to Live in the Midwest.”

“One possibility for students in my Politics and Government in the Midwest course is to participate in an alternate economic index that includes sustainability measures,” said Johnson.

Johnson explained that the MGA believes the Midwest is positioned as a global new energy leader because it has several significant advantages that make it ripe for investment and growth. Those advantages include first-rate educational and research institutions, vast natural resources, a motivated workforce, and well-developed manufacturing and agricultural industries.

“One of the most interesting presentations was by Ford Motor Company’s director of governmental relations, who discussed the fading opportunity to develop next-generation battery technology in the U.S.,” said Johnson. “We have the opportunity to be the location for the manufacturing of next-generation batteries, especially here in the Midwest, but the time for doing so is growing short, and we risk the opportunity being taken overseas.”

Johnson concluded, “The MGA invited me to attend future meetings on behalf of the ‘Midwest Matters’ initiative at Monmouth College, and I’m hopeful other faculty members of the initiative’s steering committee will also be able to attend.”