Indiana State University Newsroom

Students head to national political conventions

August 21, 2008

The evening news is filled with stories surrounding the upcoming presidential election. While many college students are interested in the debate surrounding Barack Obama or John McCain, 10 Indiana State University students will find themselves on the front lines -- the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Five students -- Jenna Butler, Brownsburg; Sadie Davis, Martinsville; Madalyn Blackburn, Washington; Analyssa Noe, Wetmore, Kan. and Michael Scott, Gary -- are currently in Denver, anxiously awaiting Monday's start of the Democratic National Convention.

"The most interesting aspect of attending the national convention is having the chance to be right in the thick of a huge political event," Davis, a political science major, said. "I've heard people talk about the conventions they attended 20 years ago, and they still get excited about the memories. This convention is historic and important in so many ways, and I'm thrilled just to be a part of it."

The five may be in Denver, but the learning continues. The national convention experience, in conjunction with Washington Center's Inside Washington 08 Program, is a two week adventure.

During the first week, students witness and participate in the building excitement as media offices are set up, the podium is completed, the convention hall is decorated, and the delegates and public officials begin to pour into the city. As the weekend approaches, students are able to volunteer for convention-related assignments and attend convention receptions and rallies. Topics during the first week include an introduction to the host city and the convention facility, the history of political campaigns and conventions, the nomination process, convention planning and procedures, party organizations, campaign finance and media coverage.

"Our academic sessions, which consist of a small group of 10-15 students and two professors, have been amazing. The discussions are so exciting and intellectually stimulating," Noe, a legal studies major, said.

"Every morning we hear two to four speakers, most of which have been really great. We are required to keep a journal summarizing these sessions and discussing our reactions to their thesis," Noe added. "We also have a book to read and several articles and newspapers for required reading."

During the week of the convention, the events of each previous day are analyzed and the upcoming events of the current day are discussed. The focus of this week is on the keynote address, party platform, party factions, selection of the presidential and vice presidential nominees, campaign issues and strategies, and other important races

But it's not all fun, games and networking. Students attending the conventions are also learning through formal instruction, guest lectures, panels, tours, site visits, and fieldwork assignments. Fieldwork assignments are on one of five areas: media, host committee, state delegations, interest groups or with either the Democratic or Republican National Committees.

The students are documenting their experiences with video cameras, courtesy of Indiana State's Office of Information Technology. They will also be blogging.

Scott, president of Indiana State's Student Government Association, initially wasn't planning to participate in the program.

"The election wasn't exciting at the time," he said.

He later decided to take a chance and turn in his application materials on the last day.

"I'm happy I did," he added. "This is an opportunity to be a part of history. The possibility of witnessing history is what drives my excitement."

Scott, who has been placed with the Ohio delegation for the course of the convention, will apply the experience back at Indiana State this fall.

"I am enrolled in a course that will focus on this year's election so this is a great way to supplement that instruction," he said.

Scott, a political science major, calls the convention experience "a network lovers dream."

"I have a great interest in politics, so this is a prime opportunity to meet people who can help me advance that goal," he said.

Noe will be working with the "She Should Run" campaign, which was created to nominate, encourage and support women who are or should be running for public office.

As part of the assignment, she will assist with "Rock the Vote" and a high profile reception.

"I get to assist with the Emily's List reception gala, where Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama are all headlining guests," Noe said.

Noe is hoping to fit in a few other activities.

"I also hope to attend some of the special interest caucus sessions," she said.

For all, the experience is educational and memorable.

"I will be meeting my peers from all across the globe who are involved and concerned about our world," Davis said. "The possibilities are many, and even if I don't meet Obama or get a clip on TV, I am having a rewarding experience that I will never forget."

Five more Indiana State students will be leaving Sunday to head to Minneapolis for the Republican National Convention.

One of the students, Michael Cook, has a hint of what his assignment will be during the convention.

"I was contacted by a woman at Fox News Channel a couple of weeks ago, but I'm not sure what exactly I'll be doing," Cook, a political science major from Charleston, Ill., said. "I'm really excited to be working for Fox News. The potential for the people I could run into is endless. Hopefully I'll get close to Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity."

Like his five counterparts currently in Denver, Cook is looking forward to witnessing the political process in action.

"I've taken many political sciences classes at Indiana State, and on many occasions we've discussed the presidential nomination process. I'm able to see the process right before my eyes," Cook said.

In addition to witnessing the process, Cook is hoping to catch a glimpse of notable Republicans and possibly get on the floor to watch McCain's nomination.

In addition to Cook, ISU students attending the Republican National Convention include Matthew Huckleby, Georgetown; Carly Robbins, Terre Haute; Dustin Bryant, Terre Haute and Brent Ellis, Terre Haute.

The Washington Center has a record of 474 participants representing 135 colleges and universities attending the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Students hail from 46 states, the District of Columbia and 11 foreign countries. Indiana State students had a portion of their trip funded through a grant from Lilly Endowment.


Contact: Nancy Rogers, Center for Public Service and Community Engagement, (812) 237-2474 or  

Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or

Story Highlights

The evening news is filled with stories surrounding the upcoming presidential election. While many college students are interested in the debate surrounding Barack Obama or John McCain, 10 Indiana State University students will find themselves on the front lines -- the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

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