Straayer Center for Public Service Leadership launches at Colorado State University

Straayer Center banner

For hundreds of Colorado State University students, their college experience was highlighted by the rumble of a well-loved van, the buzz of debate in the House and Senate chambers, the camaraderie built in legislative offices, and the consistent support and lessons shared by John Straayer, political science professor and longtime leader of the Legislative Internship Program. The six-credit practicum called POLS 486A – Legislative Politics has provided more than 1,000 students with hands-on learning experience within the inner workings of Colorado’s government.

After 37 years, Straayer retired as the head of the internship program, driving his last vanload of CSU students down to the Colorado State Capitol in spring 2017.

John Straayer
John Straayer

“I’ve had a wonderful half-century run here at Colorado State University, working with thousands of students, colleagues, and administrators and staff members — on campus, in our Capitol, and in the larger Colorado community,” says Straayer. “Many are life-long friends, and I want to thank them all.”

New Straayer Center

This fall, in honor of Straayer’s legacy at CSU, the Department of Political Science is expanding the Legislative Internship Program with the official launch of the Straayer Center for Public Service Leadership. The Straayer Center will train future public leaders with expanded teaching, research, service and outreach initiatives dedicated to public service leadership.

The Straayer Center will house the Legislative Internship Program, helping to expand and deepen the program, as well as coordinate a speaker series and mentorship programs to invite key community leaders to campus, bringing lessons learned in the legislative offices back to CSU. To kick off the fall 2017 semester, the Straayer Center launched the Straayer Symposium Series featuring Congressman Jared Polis, as well as a “Pizza and Politics” program featuring Abraham M. Denmark, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia. The Straayer Center will soon offer outreach programs that teach students the foundations of public service leadership.

Under the leadership of Director Sam Houghteling, the Straayer Center’s first major initiative is the development of additional experiential learning opportunities at the local, state and national level.

“The Straayer Center is a catalyst for future civic leaders, honoring core components of our land-grant mission at CSU,” explains Houghteling.

John Straayer at Capitol
Straayer talks with legislative interns Becky Ewing and Tyler Marr in the Colorado House Chambers in April 2013.

A foundation of generosity

While Straayer may have handed off the reins of the Legislative Internship Program to political science Professor Robert Duffy, his influence on the Straayer Center and Department of Political Science students will continue. This fall, Straayer is teaching a course on legislative politics and serves as a faculty advisor to the Straayer Center.

“Professor Straayer’s commitment to educating and supporting future public leaders is unmatched,” says Department of Political Science Chair Michele Betsill. “This new center ensures that his legacy will continue for generations to come.”

Beyond his influence on the Legislative Internship Program and guidance on the growth of the Straayer Center, Straayer and his wife, Judy, have ensured the success of the Center for years to come thanks to their financial generosity. In 2015, the Straayers established the Straayer Legislative Internship Program Endowment to ensure the Legislative Internship Program will continue to grow and prosper long into the future. In addition, they established the John Straayer Citizenship and Public Service Scholarship Endowment, which supports political science students participating in internships and will help provide access to the expanded internship opportunities available through the Straayer Center.

“It is gratifying to know that through this Center our programs that meld academics with real-world practicum opportunities for our students will continue, grow and prosper,” Straayer says, noting that for many students, the Legislative Internship Program has provided direction and launched careers. “The Center will ensure that this door is wide open for the coming generation.”

To celebrate the launch of the Straayer Center, the Department of Political Science is challenging alumni, friends, and colleagues to help raise $10,000 for the John Straayer Citizenship and Public Service Scholarship Endowment. If the $10,000 goal is reached, John and Judy have pledged to match it. Through the generosity of the Department of Political Science community, the initiative can raise $20,000 in scholarship support.

How to get involved

1) Visit the Ramfunder campaign page to learn more about the impact the Straayer Center and the John Straayer Citizenship and Public Service Scholarship Endowment will have on CSU students.

2) Make gifts to the John Straayer Citizenship and Public Service Scholarship Endowment to help reach the $10,000 goal.

3) Share the campaign with friends, and encourage others to participate.

Give now

Crowdfunding update 10/9/17

Thanks to the generosity of Department of Political Science alumni and friends, the initial $10,000 crowdfunding goal was quickly reached, unlocking John and Judy Straayer’s $10,000 match. In addition, an anonymous donor pledged up to $5,000 in matching funds to increase the stretch goal to $30,000. On Oct. 9, the stretch goal was surpassed, so now more than $30,000 has been raised in support of the John Straayer Citizenship and Public Service Scholarship Endowment.

As the John Straayer Citizenship and Public Service Scholarship Endowment continues to grow, the Straayer Center is able to support more students through this important scholarship. In the spirit of Homecoming, alumni and friends are challenged to help raise additional $10,000 before the end of the crowdfunding campaign. Give today at