Poli Sci Students Take Deep Dive into Langevin Papers

Two students look through boxes of archival material in Special Collections

These documents, donated by former Congressman Langevin ’90, are already becoming a vital resource for RIC students.

This Spring Semester, a political science class pored through the James R. Langevin Papers in RIC’s Special Collections at Adams Library to learn how public policy making is done.

A former member of Congress representing the 2nd Congressional District in Rhode Island from 2001 to 2023, U.S. Congressman James Langevin ’90 donated his collection of documents, legislation, correspondence, speeches and more to RIC’s Adams Library upon his retirement from public office last year.

Boxes of Langevin papers in Special Collections

Seeing a great opportunity for her POL 355: Policy Formation Process class, Assistant Professor Perri Leviss collaborated with Digital Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Veronica Denison to have her students explore the Langevin Papers. She wanted them to see the tools of public policy making being applied to a policy issue of interest to them.

“The Langevin Papers gave them the opportunity to see real examples of how an elected official leads public policies,” says Leviss. “Instead of reading about public policy making, they see it in action through Rep. Langevin’s memorandums, letters, handwritten notes and briefing books.”

Professor Perri Leviss works with her student Randy Simas
Assistant Professor Perri Leviss discusses document retrieved by her student Randy Simas.

“I also wanted to expose my students to research and scholarship so that they could understand what resources exist in our library and in our amazing librarians,” she says. “I want them to see that they ‘belong’ in a research space.”

Senior Elizabeth Whalen focused her research on accessible public transportation for people with disabilities – a significant public policy and civil rights issue.

Special Collections librarian works with student on computer
Elizabeth Whalen (right) with Digital Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Veronica Denison

“Rep. Langevin was a champion of disability policy throughout his public service career,” says Whalen. “During my archival research, I had the opportunity to review former bills that he introduced. One example I looked at was Bill H.R. 1697 (IH) focused on implementing a new one-stop paratransit pilot program to increase accessible transportation for individuals with disabilities.”

“The ability to review this bill through the Langevin files gave me a deeper understanding of how bills are not only introduced but drafted. Frequently, bills are revised and introduced multiple times before they are passed,” she says. “I also sifted through policy memos, legislative testimony and remarks that gave me a much deeper understanding of the behind-the-scenes legislative process within Congress before the final outcome.”

First-year student Anai Aguilar researched affordable healthcare and Medicaid. 

Students conduct their research in Special Collections at Adams Library
Anai Aguilar (center)

“The Langevin Papers covered a lot on that issue in his letters, memos and testimonies,” she says. “I discovered information I hadn’t been aware of. I saw what had been done and didn’t work, and it made me think deeper about the issue and what still needs to be considered when trying to solve the problem of residents without medical care. Overall, the Langevin Papers were a great guide when it came to researching my policy issue.”

Lissette Caro, also a senior, researched unregulated custody transfer of adopted children, also known as “rehoming.” 

Political science student examines Langevin papers in Special Collections
Lissette Caro

“The legislative files donated by former Rep. Jim Langevin have been invaluable in my research,” she says. “The collection, which includes interviews, a GAO report request, legislative testimonies and correspondence among various stakeholders, offered a firsthand look at the legislative process, the challenges and the recommended solutions.”

“It was wonderful watching the various ways that these students were able to connect and engage with the James R. Langevin Papers,” says Denison. “In their interrogation of the archival materials – both the physical and electronic records, they demonstrated a critical understanding of how historical events shape contemporary political landscapes.”

Rep. Langevin was invited to attend Leviss’ class earlier in the semester, where students had the opportunity to talk to him personally and ask questions about legislation he spearheaded. (See gallery photos from that visit below.)