Who is Dr. Elizabeth Dudash-Buskirk?
Dr. Dudash-Buskirk is a Communication professor at Missouri State University. Some of the classes she teaches include Rhetorical Theory, Political Communication, Social Movements, and Campaigns. Her educational background consists of a communications degree with an emphasis in political science; she was a debater, and actively involved in journalism. If there is a professor who should be recognized for outstanding civic engagement at Missouri State, it is Dr. Dudash-Buskirk. At a very young age, she was exposed to the ground level of politics in her home state of Pennsylvania. Her passion for policy started at the age of six, when she participated in political campaigns for her uncle, who ran for State Representative, and accompanied her father at campaign and organizational meetings. She is now a curator of the non-profit organization Be Civil Be Heard.
Generational Differences in Civic Engagement
Throughout Dr. Dudash-Buskirk’s education, she took specific interests in studying presidential speeches and rhetoric. Over time she shifted her focus to generational differences in civil engagement. While working on her PhD, it became apparent that it was not the presidential speeches that mattered; it was how people were discussing the politics that made a difference. Dr. Dudash-Buskirk found that the concepts of civic engagement, politics, and policy tend to shift as generations change their attitudes, beliefs, and values. Today, people are more likely to say, “I am really attached to this issue,” than “I am really attached to this candidate.” This helps us understand what politics and policy mean today.
Defining Policy and Politics
Currently, Dr. Dudash-Buskirk says there is a disconnect between policy and politics. Policy can be defined as something “we all agree on and gets voted on.” Politics relate to identity; people form their identities based on the group they are affiliated with. Although the creation of policy requires politics, there is a misconception that politics are what people control; however, policy is where the real power lies. In Dr. Dudash-Buskirk’s experience, younger generations are not aware of where the power is and, as a result, there is less of a focus on creating and updating needed policies in the U.S. at the local, state, and federal levels.
Passionate about Policy
Being Active on a Personal Level
The main way Dr. Dudash-Buskirk stays involved is by reading articles online. Critically reading and understanding biases of credible sources is also extremely important to her on professional level. As a professor, her job never stops and her personal choices never stop. Therefore she is constantly staying involved.
Being Active on a Professional Level
As a professor, Dr. Dudash-Buskirk works to get her students and peers civically engaged. Through Be Civil Be Heard, she organizes rallies for policies she’s passionate about. For example, she gathered 50 Springfield citizens and protested transgender bathroom bills. In addition, she has hosted three rallies for pro-LGBTQ organizations and recruited people against the transgender ban in the military rally. Rallies consist of peaceful protesting in public areas (such as sidewalks), where participating people hold signs and socialize with one another and the public. When she’s not in a rally, Dr. Dudash-Buskirk is a political analyst and works with other universities to educate the public about civic engagement.
Be Civil Be Heard is a non-profit organization that was created by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. They created 10 tenants to help guide citizens in expressing their political beliefs in a civil manner. Eventually, through The Center for Community Engagement, Dr. Dudash-Buskirk found herself as the new administrator of the group. BCBH is a tool that Dr. Dudash-Buskirk uses to encourage students to get involved and use their voice. She views rallies, organized through BCBH, as informational, community building events. These events help promote a healthy community and democracy. Although BCBH is not necessarily a political group, it does help bridge the disconnect between policy and politics through Table Top Talks, Soup and Civility, and Civility Certified Events.
Steps to Becoming More Civically Engaged
Here is what Dr. Dudash-Buskirk recommends for students who are interested in influencing policy:
- Identify which policy you are most passionate about
- Research your policy and find out who is involved in it
- Contact that person directly and ask them what you can do to support the policy
Getting involved with policy on the ground level (collecting signatures, calling citizens, knocking on doors) is relevant and can make a difference!
For some, it may be difficult to maintain morale when they feel the government is not hearing their voice. However, citizens’ voices can be extremely powerful on the local level. Dr. Dudash-Buskirk said, “I can’t live with the fact that I just didn’t try… In the end, if you have opposition, it’s because you did something. That part is a win.” Although her rally or fundraiser may not directly impact policy, at the end of the day, she got to use her voice. To her, using your voice is never a waste of time. For example, over the summer BCBH sponsored Art in the Park, which aided underprivileged and at risk youth. While this event may not have shaped a policy, youth were still greatly impacted. In the eyes of Dr. Dudash-Buskirk, no rally is ever a waste of time. That is how she stays motivated and encourages others to stay motivated.
Missouri State University Policy-Oriented Organizations
The following organizations are Missouri State clubs that are involved with policy:
- Student Government
- College Democrats
- College Green Party
- College Republicans
- Bears for a Just Community
- Bears for Sustainability
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
- Young Americans for Liberty
Dr. Dudash-Buskirk’s final words on communication and policy are as follows:
“Every time we speak we are creating ourselves as a part of, or outside of, the political process—what we call politics is actually the social [aspect]. In order to build societies, you need to be able to communicate in a way that is deliberative and cooperative, otherwise you don’t need communication. The only types of places where you see the study of communication and politics is in democracies. It’s not needed anywhere else. Citizen participation– let’s do it! All ages, let’s make it happen!”