Fourteen Quinnipiac University students traded in their books for campaign posters this winter break and actively participated in the New Hampshire presidential primary.
A fall semester course titled “Honors Presidential Elections and Campaigns” mixed lectures with field work to teach students. Associate Professor of Political Science Scott McLean taught the course.
The students first traveled to New Hampshire in September and November before returning in early January. The primary, which took place on Jan. 8, was won by Senator Hillary Clinton, on the Democratic side, and by Senator John McCain, on the Republican side.
“They loved every minute of it,” McLean said.
McLean hoped the students would learn skills relating to advocating in public life, the necessary strategies in working on grassroots campaign, knowledge about national issues and the history of the election process.
He believes his students achieved those goals.
“Practicing politics in addition to learning it is definitely essential to mastering it,” sophomore political science major Mark Bouchard said.
In witnessing the New Hampshire primaries first hand, the students experienced an important phase of the election.
“They were blown away at how energized it got,” McLean said.
The students each worked on campaigns of different candidates. Their work included canvassing, phone banks and making signs.
Senior Julie Hargreaves and sophomore Kailey Maher worked on Mitt Romney’s advance team.
Senior Jenielle Alonso is currently working on Rudy Giuliani’s campaign in Florida.
“Some of them really got some serious responsibilities in doing this,” McLean said.
The students did encounter some obstacles.
Climate presented the most blatant problem. “We braved the tundra that is New Hampshire,” Bouchard said.
Junior history major Nicole Colomonico also felt the cold.
“Freezing, really, really cold,” she said.
Fortunately, the weather did warm up. By primary day, the students were able to walk around without heavy coats.
Bouchard also mentioned that some New Hampshire residents didn’t support the political campaigns that focus much attention on their state.
However, the students interviewed seemed more than willing to overcome such inconveniences. “I loved that you could walk down the street and bump into an actual candidate,” said Luna Hilines, a senior political science major.
For Colomonico and Bouchard, the highlight was meeting Hillary and Bill Clinton. The two were even fortunate enough to attend Hillary’s victory party.
“We got to go up on the stage right behind Hillary as she was making her speech,” Colomonico said.
Hilines also felt very strong about her candidate, Barack Obama. “I feel like I have some personal investment,” she said.
McLean is especially pleased that a passion for the presidential election has followed the students back to Quinnipiac.
“I’m a little surprised that so many of the students have gone on this semester and are actually doing something,” McLean said.
Many of the students who went on the trip are involved in the upcoming Connecticut primary on Feb. 5.
Students earned 3 credits for the lecture, and 1 credit for the campaign experience. Yet the students might value the experience more than an academic transcript will ever show.
“When you actually go out and do it, it’ s so amazing,” Colomonico said.