The kind of progressive forum Erik Lampmann, ’14, searched for at Richmond didn’t exist when he arrived his first year.
Lampmann wanted to be politically active on campus—he is studying philosophy, politics, economics, and law (PPEL), as well as a second major in French—but he was disillusioned with the lack of activism and engagement he saw his first year.
Then he met Sandra Zuniga Guzman, ’13 while volunteering with Street Law, a joint law school-undergraduate program that teaches elementary law lessons to kids in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The two started a conversation about how to revolutionize the way students engage in politics and policy on campus, and eventually they discovered the Roosevelt Institute. As the nation's largest undergraduate public policy organization, it offered an ideal outlet for exploring policy issues.
“We thought the problem wasn't a lack of strong party-affiliated groups, but the lack of sustained progressive activism and innovation around politics,” Lampmann says. “We saw the formation of Roosevelt as a great way to provide that space—that progressive forum—for students.”
During his first year, Lampmann helped launch a Roosevelt Institute chapter on campus, but that was just the beginning. Soon he was researching and writing policy briefs. One paper explored tax inequities for LGBTQ individuals, and his work was published in the national Equal Justice Policy Journal last spring.
He also presented the brief at the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network's Solve 2012 policy conference. The gathering focused on innovative student projects or ideas for national issues. Lampmann and two other students presented on a panel about the dynamics of power, which was moderated by the director of strategic partnerships for Planned Parenthood of America.
“We looked at the different dimensions of a social justice movement,” Lampmann explains. “Who to choose as allies, where to build coalitions, and how to define power.”
Lampmann’s commitment to social justice and equality on campus goes beyond research to activism with Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity and involvement with Common Ground, the University’s diversity and inclusion initiative.
“I've found these folks to be some of the most genuinely welcoming and intelligent people in the University community,” Lampmann says. “Through the Safe Zone program and other inclusive programs on campus I've felt the force of the dedication to a truly socially just campus climate. I also count among my closest friends and colleagues the individuals I've met through these organizations.”
When he returns from his study abroad in France this spring, he hopes to plan for the sustainability of the organizations like the Roosevelt Institute, and to finish a senior thesis in PPEL and possibly French.
“Five years down the road, I see myself in a political philosophy Ph.D. program,” Lampmann says. “Richmond has provided me with a scholar-activist model of learning, and I want to continue with that and teach college with that model.”