Three of us were part of a privileged group of 140 students from around the nation who had the opportunity to attend the Republical National Convention. Fellow students at the convention represented schools as far away as Fairbanks, Alaska, or as close as Hillsborough County. These students came from both two-year and four-year institutions.
On our first day of the seminar leading up to the convention, we were given textbooks that would help guide us through the electoral process. We also were directed to keep a reflective journal with which to make daily entries about what we learned and experienced.
Our experience in Tampa was divided into two weeks. Our first week was spent attending a lecture series by several scholars-in-residence. The speakers included former CNN reporter Aaron Brown, former Senator Mickey Edwards, and two Political Science professors: Dr. Meena Rose of Hofstra University and Dr. Michael Genovese of Layola Marymount University. Each scholar spoke on topics relevant to the upcoming election, from the role of news media in today’s politics to the evolution of the Republican Party.
Divided into groups of 16 students, “small group” sessions complemented each lecture with a review. The professor leading my group, Francis Talty of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, helped make connections between the textbook and what we were soon to experience. We got to tour the forum while it was still being built!
In our second week, with the convention just around the corner, we were put into our field assignments. These assignments were based on one’s specific interest in the electoral process. Coming back from the Salzburg Global Seminar earlier this summer, my placement with the International Republican Institute (IRI) was based on my interest in the international perspective of the convention. The IRI consisted of leaders from around the world. This organization is a coalition of world leaders belonging to parties that subscribe to a center-right agenda. My job as an intern was to guide international delegates between speeches made by Condoleezza Rice, Senator John McCain, Congressman Ron Paul and many others.
I had the opportunity to talk to members of parliament from Iceland, Tanzania, and the Maldives. I asked each representative about what they thought of our electoral process and Romney’s energy policy.
By the end of the week, I had made connections with foreign leaders from around the world and learned and experienced the electoral process. My time in Tampa was unique and enriching. My experience has helped me learn what my values are and how I can pursue them in the future.
I recommend this experience to all students.