From the classroom to the primaries

Political science students help with presidential campaigns

By on February 15, 2016
sdfgAntoine Campbell

For the last two weekends, 22 students and one professor have been traveling to New Hampshire to work on campaigns for presidential candidates as a part of their political science class.

This “Presidential Campaigns” course, taught by political science professor and chaperone of the trip Scott McLean, lasts for 14 weeks. The public service learning course allows students to first visit New Hampshire in November and then again in January before their official involvement on the weekends of Jan. 29 and Feb. 5. The class has an experimental portion and an in-class portion, as well.

McLean has been bringing his students to work on the primaries in New Hampshire since the 2000 election. McLean and the students expect to return from the most recent, and final, trip of the semester on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Mike Raimondo, a sophomore political science major, said he decided to take the class because a constant interest in politics made him want to experience an election firsthand.

“The initial trip was in the beginning stages of the campaigns so we began to form a grassroots campaign for our respective candidates,” Raimondo said. “The following two trips we helped set up various town hall meetings [and] listened to our candidates and other candidates speak in person.”

The experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, according to a quote from McLean in a press release.

“Every hour of experience in New Hampshire and serving in a presidential campaign is a significant learning opportunity that can have enduring effects and impact real experiences of communication, leadership and civic engagement. Those are transferrable skills that will endure throughout their lives,” McLean said in the press release.

Freshman political science major Antoine Campbell was one of the students who ventured to New Hampshire as part of the course. He said he had some knowledge about the elections, but that he got involved with the class to see the behind-the-scenes aspects.

“I had a fairly general understanding of how the elections went,” Campbell said. “I was curious as to the inner workings of an election and how campaigns are actually managed and run.”

Campbell said the experience was thrillin and seeing all the campaigning and protesting in person was crazy. People attending the events for the presidential candidates were excited and passionate, according to Campbell.

But the students did more than just work on the primaries and campaigns. Some were lucky enough to meet some of the candidates.

“So far I was the only one in the class to get photos with Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio out of pure luck, so that was just incredible—as was meeting those men,” Campbell said.

A great aspect of the trip for Campbell was hearing the different candidates give their speeches.

“Nothing makes a speech more impactful than hearing it live and seeing the emotion on these candidates’ faces and hearing it in their voices,” Campbell said. “Seeing them live makes you feel like you have more of a grasp on what they are trying to say.”

Campbell said he hopes this experience will give him knowledge that he can carry with him to his future career as a lawyer.

“These experiences will shape my future in a positive way because this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience with one of the strangest election cycles ever,” he said. “Considering I want to be a lawyer, helping elect lawmakers was a great experience to have and seeing the deeper inner workings of politics was amazing as well.”

Raimondo, who was working with Marco Rubio’s campaign during his time in New Hampshire, said the most memorable moment was one of the candidate’s final rallies.

“The energy [at Donald Trump’s final rally] was incredible and the intensity was unbelievable,” Raimondo said.

After taking this course, Raimondo said he now understands the processes and work that is necessary every day as a politician.

“I have developed a newfound respect for these men and women,” he said. “I have learned how and why these individuals are doing what they are doing.”

Sophomore political science major Murphy Siegel said he took the class because he knew he wanted to manage and run a national campaign sometime in the future.

“I was ready to put on a suit every day and go talk to reporters, set up rallies and discuss candidates’ messages,” Siegel said.

Siegel, who is from Long Island, said the people in New Hampshire are very different from what he’s used to.

“I had a wide range of responses from, ‘Come help me bring this couch into my living room,’ to ‘I’m voting for Trump, get off my property now, I am done with you people,’” Siegel said. “It was really incredible to see how passionate people here get.”

Siegel said the experience has helped him develop networking skills. He said it also helped him realize the media has a tendency to spin everything.

“I have seen seven candidates here in New Hampshire, live and in person, and the messages that the media portrays is completely different than what candidates are actually doing and saying,” Siegel said. “The most valuable lesson I have learned is that these candidates, regardless of their views, are still human. They eat, they sleep, they smile, they debate voters, they walk. America forgets that these people really do care about the country and it’s disrespectful to treat them as if they don’t.”

But most importantly, Siegel said he learned that hates campaigning and is more interested in the communications and analytics of campaigns.

“I was so grateful to take part in this program,” he said. “I can’t really say what effect this will have on my future in politics but I can assure you I have learned more in this primary week alone than in my entire college experience thus far.”

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