SPIA students are eligible to participate in any study abroad or exchange program sponsored by UGA, other USG institutions, or approved by UGA’s Office of International Education. Many programs offer political science and/or international affairs courses.

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What's Up, SPIA Students?

Teaching the Government how to Govern

Writer: Elizabeth Holland

Nestled behind the ancient oaks on North Milledge Ave. is a building where much of the behind-the-scenes action of Georgia government takes place. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) offers the Vinson Institute Fellows Program to undergraduate students at the University of Georgia, and I was selected as a fellow in the fall of 2015. The Institute of Government is home to the Governmental Training, Education and Development Division (GTED) along with several other departments. This division offers training programs to government officials to instruct them about the rules and responsibilities of their offices. Stacy Jones is the associate director for GTED and served as my faculty mentor during my fellowship. With her direction and advice, we combined my interests in communication, law and government service to develop a social media guide for local government officials.

In the United States, 74 percent of adults utilize social media platforms. In addition, many federal agencies, state offices and local governments maintain social media pages. We conducted a survey to identify the legal questions local government officials frequently raise and the questions on which they most desired additional information. Many of their questions concerned whether local government officials can restrict what government employees say on social media or punish them for their posts. They also had questions related to social media and hiring decisions.
I conducted an in-depth case review and interviewed communications professors and local government lawyers to learn more about whether supervisors can restrict public employees’ social media postings or check social media history when hiring. With the help of Ms. Jones, we created a video tutorial that local government officials can use to learn about their rights on social media. 

The Institute of Government provided me with an opportunity to combine all of my interests in a way that enabled me to produce work that would have a real, meaningful impact on Georgia government. This opportunity gave me the ability to use skills I learned from my classes in the School of Public and International Affairs and begin to explore the possible career paths I can pursue with my degree.


Writer: Ryan Bolt

As spring semester approaches here at the University of Georgia it marks the end of another great season competing with the undergraduate mock trial team. For those unfamiliar, mock trial is an activity in which teams from all around the country simulate a criminal trial. Every year a new case is released complete with witness affidavits, relevant case law, and available evidence to be used during the simulation. Students compete as witnesses as well as lawyers and are scored based on their performance during the simulation. At every tournament, teams from different universities battle it out representing either the prosecution or defense to present their case. Mock trial provides a platform for students to improve their public speaking skills, engage in competitive acting as witnesses, or just learn a little more about our legal system in preparation for law school. And while other schools have coaches the University of Georgia mock trial team is completely student run. Everything between hosting our own tournament in Atlanta to learning the various applications of the law is student led and operated.

This fall season the ‘mockdawgs’ had the most competitive semester yet, bringing in a record number of trophies from over six tournaments. In Ohio, UGA swept the competition winning both first and second place against teams like Michigan, Ohio state, and Miami of Ohio. In Washington D.C., the mockdawgs pulled third place at the most competitive competition of the semester beating teams like Harvard, Vanderbilt, and Princeton. But for all of the competitive success we’ve had this semester nothing can replace the lifelong friendships we’ve made in this program. I was fortunate enough to captain a team this semester and helped welcome new members to the program. The fall semester is dedicated to teaching new members ‘how to mock’ and welcoming them to the mock family. While some enter the program having had many years of experience in high school others hear about mock trial through a friend and have never competed with a group before.

Out of all the organizations on campus it would be of no surprise to hear that the UGA mock trial program logs the most hours in total. Each of the teams in our program spend upwards of eighteen hours a week together perfecting case theory, practicing witness directs and crosses, and improving upon opening and closing statements.

Although mock trial is a huge time commitment, we wouldn’t do it if we weren’t all great friends as well. In fact, it would be pretty hard to spend that much time with a group of people without fostering lifelong friendships somewhere along the way. For many, including me, mock trial is our on-campus family that has shaped our experience here at the University of Georgia. Heading into the spring season we look forward to representing the University of Georgia at regionals, open round championships, and with any luck nationals as well!

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