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- Putting the university to the test
PoliSci course lets students follow real campaign
While students in other classes spend their weekends writing papers and studying for tests, Professor Scott McLean’s Presidential Election Campaigns course provides students with hands-on learning experiences in the political field.
For two weekends during the semester and a week in January, the 28 members of the class travel to New Hampshire to learn the ins-and-outs of political campaigning.
“So many students walk around not knowing what and how Washington is shaping their future and I refuse to remain ignorant about such matters,” senior Jameson Cherilus, who volunteers on President Barack Obama’s campaign, said. “I want a say in the type of people we elect to run this country and this course has given me exactly that opportunity.”
Over the course of the semester, students learn what is involved in campaigning and choose presidential candidates based off of a questionnaire on a program called Select Start, which asks students to fill out personal information as well as their positions on political issues.
Students also choose their candidates based off of their positions on certain issues, the candidate’s potential to win and the campaign they think would be the most fun to work on.
The students then utilize their newly-acquired knowledge in New Hampshire when volunteering for their selected candidates.
“New Hampshire is a political Disney World for people like me,” McLean said. “It’s got amazing characters and lots to do. It’s a lot of fun, and really it’s the only place in the country where a college student can just jump into campaigns and politics.”
Throughout the New Hampshire trips, students participate in numerous canvassing activities, such as holding signs, phone banking and going door-to-door, to garner support for their candidates.
“Anybody can have a lecture telling you what things are about, but to truly experience it and witness what goes into a campaign and how someone is elected, no classroom could ever provide that,” said Natalie Deduck, another volunteer on Obama’s campaign team. “Being a part of that too has been very eye-opening.”
McLean hopes to open his students’ eyes to the fact that the election system in the United States is not the only system in the world. The course provides his students with knowledge of the American presidential candidate selection process, as well as a critical point of view of the method and ways to improve it, according to McLean.
“They really do come out at the end of this process feeling much more patriotic about their country, they feel like they’ve really done something important, that they were part of making history, and it’s a good feeling,” McLean said.