Former senator Barbara Mikulski joins faculty

By SIRI TUMMALA | February 2, 2017


Public Domain Senator Barbara Mikulski

Baltimore native Barbara Mikulski joined the U.S. Senate for the Democratic Party in 1976 and went on to become the longest-serving woman in Congressional history. She is also the longest-serving Maryland Senator.

As of this spring semester, she joined the Hopkins faculty as a professor of public policy and advisor to the University’s president. She will be based in the department of political science.

Mikulski described what motivated her to join the University.

“Hopkins is a wonderful institution that has a big impact in our community in all of its campuses,” Mikulski said. “It educates people to be leaders in our own country and around the world. I thought, ‘What a cool place to be able to be very local, national and international.’ I am looking forward to interacting with the students and faculty to see how I can pass it on.”

Mikulski explained her role when she served as a senator, as well as the goals she had during the terms she served.

“My job as a senator was to look out for the day to day needs of my constituents to see how that affected national policy, and where I could be a champion for the people,” said Mikulski. “And then by tradition, things like constituent services were part of it: when someone needed help with a veteran’s disability, needed help with immigration problems and getting bogged down with the Federal Bureaucracy.”

Prior to joining the Hopkins faculty, she fought for science, technology and innovation on the congressional level.

“I was deeply committed to an innovation agenda in science and technology by making sure that we would be advocating for those who had been left out,” Mikulski said. “For them to have jobs or to benefit from public policy.”

She also remarked on how a Donald Trump presidency could potentially affect politics as a whole.

“Whether Trump is president or not, we would still have big issues. But in the atmosphere of Trump, what we all need to stand up for is truth,” she said. “We need to make sure there are avenues even though there is misinformation coming from the highest of sources. We need to not only speak truth but we need to also make sure there is truth in our people.”

Mikulski went on to commend the organizers of the numerous marches and protests that have occurred in the days following President Trump’s election and inauguration.

“People are very good at organizing the marches and the protests. I think that is absolutely important as we need to give this ability to our concerns, which is great,” she said. “But I think with every outcry, we need a strategy leading to our outcome... I think it’s very important that you know how power functions in our government and country as well as how you can use those to advance change.”

Mikulski reflected on her current standing as the longest-serving woman in Congress.

“For me, it wasn’t how long I served. Longevity is a nice metric, but it’s really how well you served,” she said. “I was honored to be the longest-serving woman in Congressional history, but for me the honor also was to really see the big changes that came to women in American politics and how I could help add to the women holding elected office — helping people get elected and increasing the numbers.”

Mikulski also gave some advice for girls aspiring to follow in her footsteps.

“Get involved in your local community. Begin to learn the leadership skills, the needs of people and the building of coalitions. Start at the local level,” she said. “For me, my background is that of a social worker, so I never thought I would go into politics.”

Despite the challenges she faced managing a career in politics, Mikulski said that her love for social justice work motivated her to continue working.

“When I got started, women in politics were a novelty. Politics was dominated by potbelly guys,” Mikulski said. “But for me it was being a social worker and then being an activist in the fight against a highway and being in the civil rights movement of my time. That passion and that participation took me into politics.”

Mikulski’s specific role at Hopkins has not been determined yet.

“I am based here at Homewood at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. I am in the Political Science Department. We are working out now if I am going to co-teach with credentialed professors or if I am going to guest lecture across the departments,” she said. “So we are learning all that now, and this first semester is a work in progress.”

She said that her favorite parts of being at Hopkins so far have been her encounters and interactions with students.

“Already just walking around campus or having a coffee in Gilman Hall and spontaneously interacting with students, I am so impressed by their dedication to make a difference in terms of the desire to work for Baltimore being a better place and also issues involving global warming,” she said.

Furthermore, Mikulski explained what she hopes to bring to Hopkins.

“Service is in my DNA, and I look forward to be of service to the students and to the University, to bring what knowledge I know to work continually for the greater good,” she said.

Mikulski also believes that the younger generations will continue the work that she and her colleagues have done in politics and believes in them to carry on the legacy of change and movement toward an even better future.

“Because you are the new people of the century, we are counting on you to really be able to know this,” she said. “There continues to be this persistent problem of racism, sexism and the marginalization of people. It is these enduring problems that I am going to pass on what I know, so that you all with your fresh thinking and idealism will really help move this forward.”

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