New Jersey General Assembly Member Craig Coughlin was welcomed by the Montclair State University community on Tuesday, March 29 in the School of Communication and Media to assist with launching a new policy studies major and discuss his role in policy development as an elected official.
Coughlin has been a member of the New Jersey State Assembly since 2010. He represents District 19, which encompasses the municipalities of Sayreville, Carteret, Perth Amboy, Woodbridge and the assemblyman’s hometown of South Amboy.
Coughlin shared his process of figuring out what policies are most important to him, especially regarding food insecurity and affordability, along with the day-to-day procedures of revising bipartisan assembly bills that could potentially be enacted into law.
“I don’t know if we’ll see the day where nobody in New Jersey is hungry, but we can sure as hell try,” Coughlin said.
His welcoming event was open to students and faculty. Montclair State President Dr. Jonathan Koppell attended the event as well.
Students were also welcome to ask Coughlin questions. Outside of focusing on food insecurity, he also touched upon topics like raising the state’s minimum wage, economic recovery from the pandemic, brownfield remediation and the importance of a liberal arts education.
Dr. Brigid Harrison, chair and professor in the political science and law department, interviewed Coughlin and afterward shared how she felt about the event.
“I thought it was fantastic,” Harrison said. “It was really illuminating to hear about the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the policy process, but also I think it was really important for students to hear about the motivations of the people making policy and the collaborations that are occurring that are helping make peoples’ lives [in the state of New Jersey] better.”
She also described how Coughlin’s visit deconstructed certain stigmas many people have regarding government.
“A lot of times when we think about government, there’s a negative or pejorative perception,” Harrison said. “But today we talked about the cooperation that occurs and the many public servants including speaker [Coughlin] identify helping people and improving the lives of others as their prime motivation.”
Students who were at the event also shared some of the major take-aways from Coughlin’s insight. Jennifer Trujillo, a senior political science major, was one of them.
“I loved it, [Coughlin] was very informative and he touched upon many interesting topics,” Trujillo said. “I think that I would be considering this program. I love the topics [of food insecurity and affordability] and we have to get more people open to talk and make sure students know their resources and where to turn to.”
Andrew Lyons, a senior political science major, pointed out that a lot of students are not familiar with these types of events and thought it was a huge opportunity to attend.
“I thought it was interesting, it’s kind of sad that a lot of students do not know or care about these kinds of events,” Lyons said. “[Coughlin] is a speaker in the Assembly, a pretty powerful position. I think it’s important that more students get involved and come to these kinds of events.”
He also shared his insight about the newly-introduced major along with Coughlin’s focus on food insecurity.
“The major is great, if I could I would have definitely tried to double major in this,” Lyons said. “For anybody looking to work in the public sector, I would recommend this major. I also think [food insecurity] is a great cause to take up because it’s something that everyone can agree on. It’s great that our politicians are focusing on issues like this.”