Students Go Behind the Scenes in Trenton

New course immerses students in the workings of the State House

Photo: Mike Peters

Students from the first Selected Topics in Political Science class pose at the State House in Trenton with New Jersey State Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (second from left).

The first class of Montclair State University political science and justice studies majors to be enrolled in a new course, Selected Topics in Political Science, recently wrapped up their semester with a final day of studying the workings of the New Jersey legislature at the State House in Trenton. Taught by Sal M. Anderton ’95, an attorney and legislative director of Porzio Governmental Affairs, the course gave the students the rare opportunity to personally observe and gain first-hand knowledge and experience of the legislative process of state government.

The class alternated weeks between on-campus classroom lectures and traveling to Trenton to spend a day at the State House. “What was so unique about this course was just that,” says Anderton. “The students spent full work days in the State House attending committee meetings, observing legislative hearings and had the opportunity to meet and talk to legislators and staff.”

On the weeks the students were not in Trenton, they held class room lectures on topics relevant to New Jersey such as property taxes, gaming and the powers of the Governor. They also had guest speakers on campus including Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill, Essex County Republican Chairman Al Barlas and Legislative Aide Ron Bothelo.

When in Trenton, the students attended voting sessions and committee hearings, and met cabinet members and legislators including Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. “Such exposure gave the students a view of politics and law-making that they would not otherwise get,” notes Anderton. “I believe they saw these decision makers as real people genuinely interested in public service, solving problems of public importance and imparting some of their experiences and knowledge to our students.”

Anderton says that the course was a great success and felt that the students appreciated the unprecedented access to state leaders that the class provided. “I am very much looking forward to doing this again in the fall,” he says.

View photos from the student’s last day at the State House on