A Rare Opportunity to Witness History and to Learn as History is Made
With the 2016 election cycle in full swing, students at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH, home of the nation's first presidential primary celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, are on the receiving end of a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness history as-it- happens and to get an education classes and textbooks alone could rarely offer.
Saint Anselm, home to the renowned New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) regularly plays host to the candidates who hold town hall meetings, make policy speeches and participate in debates with their opponents. The students, in addition to being able to attend such events, often act as "ambassadors," shepherding the presidential hopefuls and their staffs, assisting with logistics and helping the thousands of reporters, etc. who cover the events.
The Institute's Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassadors have front row seats for all the action. For many ambassadors, the ability to interact and engage with candidates has been invaluable. Many are currently seizing the connections they've made at Saint Anselm through internships or volunteer positions with the presidential campaigns.
Sophomore politics major Cody Aubin, of Manchester, N.H., is such an ambassador who is a volunteer for the campaign of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Having grown up in New Hampshire, Cody says he has always been highly interested in politics and very engaged.
"The ambassador program has exposed me to a lot of the finer points of political functions and how things happen behind the scenes," said Cody. "I have been able to take that knowledge and apply it to help set up for town halls or speeches with the Bush campaign."
Brandon Pratt, also a sophomore politics major, believes the ambassador program has played a key role in providing unique opportunities for him and his classmates. Pratt, from Concord, N.H., is currently interning for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He believes the program has helped him develop the professional skills he'll need to work on the campaign.
"Working town halls and interacting with voters was second nature when I started my internship, thanks to the ambassador program," said Brandon.
In addition to the ambassador program, students say a good part of the credit for their learning experience belongs to the in-classroom experience they have with professors at Saint Anselm who have also been part of the process. Several are currently enrolled in Professor Christopher Galdieri's class on the New Hampshire Primary, a partnership between Saint Anselm College and the George Washington University.
"I have students volunteering for candidates from Hillary Clinton to Marco Rubio to Jeb Bush to Ben Carson and more. Their experience as volunteers and interns helps them learn course material, and their course material helps them do a better job on the campaigns," explained Dr. Galdieri.
Cody Aubin, who is enrolled in Professor Galdieri's class, says he's enjoying learning about the need for campaigns to mobilize ground support and the importance of volunteers and interns in the early states, such as New Hampshire. "It is very interesting to be learning about the New Hampshire primary in class and then go out and help the campaign and see the real world practices of what we just discussed in class," he said.
Politics major Ashley Motta, a junior from Lincoln, R.I., and Sarah King, a sophomore politics major from Cumberland, R.I., are putting what they've learned in class to work supporting Hillary Clinton's campaign to be the first female president. Both serve as Fellows for Hillary for New Hampshire. Sarah believes her American Government course provided her with great insight into what it takes to run a campaign.
"We specifically talked about the campaign strategies used in 2012 and the logic behind those strategies," said Sarah. "Working on the campaign now, I can see the same logic being applied as campaign strategies are being rolled out."
Ashley Motta believes a class she took with Professor Galdieri last fall, Campaigns and Elections, gave her a taste of what the campaign might be like.
"Campaigns and Elections gave me insight into the real-world strategies that campaigns use, what works in campaigns, and how campaigns can track and use data to help with their goals."
By combining the unique experience they receive in and outside the classroom, Saint Anselm students have tremendous opportunities to pursue their dreams to work in politics and government at higher levels beyond graduation. Many have gone on to interesting and exciting careers in government, politics and media.