Professor Elected to State Senate
By Daniel Drew
An adjunct professor in the Department of Government and Politics won a seat in the State Senate in a landslide special election to fill the post vacated by former Sen. Bill Finch, who recently was elected Mayor of Bridgeport.
Rob Russo, who has been teaching Introduction to American Government since September of 2007, will serve the residents of Monroe, Trumbull, and Bridgeport in Connecticut's 22nd District. The Republican attorney has been appointed to the Commerce, Transportation, and Housing committees. He is a ranking member of the Housing Committee.
"It's going to give me many more real world situations that I can bring to the classroom," Russo said. "I'm trying to bring people that actually work in government and politics to talk to the students. My students are going to be getting that everyday now as my experiences in Hartford continue."
Russo is the latest in a series of faculty who apply real-world knowledge and experience in the classroom, according to Professor and Department Chairman Gary L. Rose, PhD.
"What I’m particularly pleased with is that we have someone who has firsthand knowledge and real-life experience at the Connecticut State Capital which he will bring to the classroom," Rose said. "The one thing I want our students to have more of is not just a theoretical understanding of politics, but an applied knowledge."
In addition to Sen. Russo, several other real-world participants in the political process serve as adjunct professors. Louise DiCocco-Beauton, an attorney and lobbyist, also teaches Introduction to American Government. Jerry Lindsley, the director of SHU’s Polling Institute, teaches public opinion polling.
"Collectively, Rob Russo and these others bring a whole new dimension to my department that I'm really thrilled about," Rose said. "These people are instrumental in making contracts for career purposes and helping established internships in various ways — not to mention the people that they know throughout the State of Connecticut, which brings Sacred Heart University closer to the power centers in the state.”
Russo believes it is important that students understand the process and the true financial impact of government. By understanding this concept, they will be better prepared to affect change upon graduation. This approach helped Russo win his seat. Because the municipalities in his district are so diverse, Russo focused his campaign on a unifying issue — the cost of living in Connecticut.
Using those kinds of real-life examples will give students a new perspective as they learn, according to Rose.
"You want students to know how things are supposed to be, but you also want them to know how they really are," he said. "The applied skills that they get certainly help with their job searches. It’s attractive to employers. We want our students to participate in the process when they graduate."