Engaging students in political issues through pizza

January 29, 2024 - Features

by Cas Casmus | Pizza & Politics Coordinator


People talk to an audience while sitting in high chairs.

Former Kansas City, KS Chief of Police Rick Armstrong and former Missouri police officer John Hamilton speak at a Pizza and Politics program on crime in Kansas and Missouri.



Every semester, the Dole Institute’s Student Advisory Board engages students at the University of Kansas through Pizza & Politics—a program where students can discuss political topics while enjoying pizza. This program not only helps KU students meet local and regional political figures but also encourages them to play an active role in public policy and the political process through bipartisan exposure to important issues.

As the Pizza and Politics Coordinator, I’ve had many memorable experiences that have expanded my knowledge of politics. Each event has taught me about various opinions and ideas from our guests.

One program that stood out was “The Economic Puzzle: Piecing Together the Past and the Future,” featuring Alex Richard, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran’s State Director. Richard was open and honest, sparking a lively discussion with everyone in attendance. Students were very receptive to his ideas on how they can make a difference in their community through public policy involvement.


A man and woman smile in front of a white board in a classroom.

State Director Alex Richard spoke about economic issues facing Americans and how students have the opportunity to shape public policy discussions through civic participation.


Richard stressed the importance of working together despite political disagreements—an opinion that resonated with everyone there. Overall, his visit left a lasting impact on me and other students in attendance.

I also had the opportunity to have a conversation with John Hamilton, a former Missouri police officer and Professor Emeritus at Park University, as well as Rick Armstrong, a former Chief of Police in Kansas who now leads the KC Crime Commission. They shared stories from their time in the force, highlighting how legislation influences all aspects of police work in Kansas and Missouri – from policing methods to crime-solving techniques.


Students wearing pizza costumes pose for a photo while holding flyers for an event.

Student Events Assistant Ana-Sofia Lahovary and Discussion Groups Coordinator Braiden Bangalan pass out flyers for a Pizza & Politics program in the Kansas Memorial Union.


In our final program of the semester, I interviewed Representative Rui Xu from the Kansas Legislature about what to expect during the 2024 legislative session. A key takeaway from our talk was the importance of working together across party lines in politics—emphasizing that lawmakers from both parties need to collaborate to pass laws that help everyone.

Being the Pizza and Politics Student Coordinator has been a fun and educational experience! I am grateful to my fellow student workers for always helping during these programs, SAB members and KU students for being an engaged audience, and the platform provided by the Dole Institute of Politics for making my journey as the program’s coordinator both rewarding and enlightening.



Cas Casmus is the Pizza and Politics Coordinator at the Dole Institute of Politics. As such, Cas hosts engaging discussions with community and state leaders to promote civic discussion and political engagement at the University of Kansas, where she is a junior studying philosophy and military science. She is also a cadet in the KU Army ROTC program and acts as the Company’s First Sergeant.

About the Dole Institute
The Dole Institute was dedicated on July 22, 2003, at the University of Kansas on Senator Bob Dole’s 80th birthday. Home to the personal archives of both Senator Bob and Senator Elizabeth Dole, with a museum facility on par with the U.S. Presidential libraries, the Dole Institute has been a vibrant political forum promoting civil discourse, civic engagement, and idea exchange across the political spectrum for 20 years.

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