Providing a real-world experience to its mission of exploring public policy issues more fully and preparing future leaders in all fields, students in Albion College’s Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service made the short trip to the Caster Concepts manufacturing plant Monday, Feb. 27, to see Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in person.
The Caster Concepts plant is owned by Bill Dobbins, ’74.
"Having this event in Albion is something the students don’t normally get to see," Al Pheley, Ford Institute director, said. Pheley added that it was important for students, whether their career interests are in politics or business, to hear and evaluate the connection between Dobbins’ success in the manufacturing sector and Romney’s campaign message.
"Bill has done a great job here," Pheley said. "He’s shown you can still be a supplier to the automotive industry from Michigan and that jobs can be created here.
"This is another example of Bill Dobbins giving back to the Albion community," Pheley added. "He is known for his contributions to the culture and people of Albion, but opening up Caster Concepts for this event was an excellent way of bringing the community together around the issues of today."
Pheley also noted that the students, who arrived at the Caster Concepts factory nearly two hours before the start of the campaign event, received a firsthand experience in campaign operations as well as a firsthand feel for the candidate and his platform.
"The background from the Ford Institute gives me the ability to listen to what the candidate has to say and understand it," Ted Woodcock, ’14, a political science major and economics minor from Norton Shores, said. "There was enough in what he said that was tailored to manufacturing and jobs to where you can understand the implications of public policy and everything we’ve learned so far.
"It was a polished, extremely well-done event," Woodcock added. "He said the right things to get the crowd into it."
Pheley said the students' takeaway from the campaign stop, which came on the eve of the Michigan primary and included a full slate of national media, will be different for different people.
"Some of them are here because they are really interested in this campaign," he said. "Others are here to learn more about Romney because they haven’t had that chance. There’s another group here from the other side and they want to understand better this whole relationship of what Romney stands for and what he would bring to the election in November."
Pheley noted that Ford students will be discussing results of the Michigan primary at a viewing party and that other candidates will be offered the opportunity to make presentations.
"We will be talking about the other candidates and trying to get other candidates in, too," Pheley said.