Harvey blends work, study with passion
for civic participation
By Matt Kelly
by Andrew Shurtleff
graduation, Mark Harvey will continue his work in government
and public service in Washington.
Harvey wants to solve the problem of flagging civic participation
on his way to the White House. Harvey, a full-time student with
a full-time job, has found a way to focus his education and work
on his passion: getting people involved in the political process.
many people, getting involved means volunteering. But Harvey,
24, notes that while volunteering is up, voting is down. Turnouts
in midterm elections have decreased 20 percent since 1962, and
voting in presidential contests has declined 18 percent since
is very individually based, one person doing one thing for an
afternoon, said Harvey, who graduates May 18 with a Bachelor
of Interdisciplinary Studies degree. A volunteer will work
in a soup kitchen for an afternoon, and feels very good about
himself or herself because they see people getting full.
it would probably do more good in the long run if they talk to
their elected representatives, local newspaper editors and government
officials about policies for feeding the homeless and policies
for distributing food and growing food. That represents a more
long-term but less tangible solution.
worries about how this personal volunteering affects self-governance.
His solutions: more in-depth news, especially on television, and
more civic education, to promote self-governing and debate.
hinges on debate, he said.
has examined civic participation for his BIS capstone project
and has been aided by a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award
and by being named the first James McInhany Thomson research assistant
at the Center for Politics. He wants to continue his research,
perhaps turning it into a doctoral thesis and a book.
is an exceptionally dedicated, enthusiastic and serious student,
and brings a tremendous energy to his endeavors. I think this
dedication stems from his significant passion, which is to make
a contribution to the revitalization of civic participation in
American life, said instructor Brian Lowe, Harveys
has found that through BIS he is simultaneously able to be vigorously
involved professionally in his field and to complete his degree,
which in turn has informed his work.
also performs his own volunteer civic duties. He has been director
of programs at the Virginia Citizenship Institute in Falls Church,
where he worked on civic education initiatives, and is an adviser
to the Virginia Commission on National and Community Service,
where he is founding the Virginia Civic Consortium and involving
citizens in homeland security. For the consortium, he has drafted
a plan for a partnership of schools, nonprofits, government agencies,
corporations and media working together to revitalize participation
in public affairs.
also organized a panel discussion of volunteers for the commission
on what various volunteer programs can contribute to homeland
security. Active in Democratic political campaigns, he has worked
to get voters registered and to the polls.
has also read newspapers on radio programs for blind people and
made and distributed sandwiches for homeless people in Washington.
already has his dream job research associate at the Committee
of the Study of the American Electorate in Washington but
his interests explode in many directions.
think about possibly running for office in the future, the journalist
angle, the teaching angle, the research angle, he said.
I would like to work at the White House. Domestic Policy
Council would be great. And I hope I have enough time to do all
merely full-time will be a relief for him. In addition to his
day job in Washington, where he lives, he carried a 15-credit
course load this semester, divided between Charlottesville and
the Northern Virginia education center.
Harvey started college at 16 at Northern Virginia Community College,
in lieu of his senior year of high school. He transferred to Old
Dominion University in 1997, becoming a criminal justice major.
his parents 1998 divorce sent him into the job market, where
he landed a research assistance post at the Institute for Higher
Education Policy while still taking distance-learning courses.
He decided in 2000 to complete his degree and found a perfect
fit with the BIS program. Harvey takes full advantage of its flexibility
and the access it provides to talented people who have participated
in politics and making history.
are not just instilling us with knowledge, he said of his
instructors. They are teaching us how to ask the questions,
how to think, where to go to find out the answers.