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Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024
The Eagle

Combined SOC/SPA course allows hands-on experience during primaries

The course requires an application due Oct. 9

Correction appended. 

A joint School of Communication and School of Public Affairs class that takes students to the New Hampshire presidential primaries will be offered for the third time next semester but will a  require a competitive application for interested students.

Students in the three-credit class will travel to Manchester, N.H. from Feb. 5 -10 to attend political rallies, interview voters and report on the election. The course will cover political advertising, polling and the role of the media in elections. Students will also meet regularly for class sessions during the semester from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Students will likely have the chance to contribute material to the Boston Globe while in Manchester, according to SOC Professor Lynne Perri, who is one of the professors teaching the class. Assignments will also include blog posts, articles and a final short documentary.

Perri developed the class in 2008 with SOC Professor Bill Gentile and the late SOC Professor Dotty Lynch. In its third year, the course includes six professors, with each bringing a specific area of expertise to class, according to Perri.

“All different people are interested in the course for different reason, but they’re all interested in the political process,” Perri said.

Four sections of the class will be offered: 400- and 600-level COMM sections and 400- and 600-level GOVT sections. All classes will be held in the same time slot. Professors Perri, Richard Benedetto (SOC/SPA), Molly O’Rourke (SOC), Bill Gentile (SOC), Carrie Pergram (SPA) and Betsy Fischer Martin (SPA) will be teaching the course together.

A limited number of students will be accepted due to the nature of the course, but every effort will be made to accommodate interested students, Perri said. Organizers hope to select a group of students from diverse areas of expertise in communication and government, and preference will likely be given to upperclassmen who would not have to chance to take the course in the future. However, freshmen and sophomores are still encouraged to apply.

There will be a supplemental fee of up to $900 for the class to cover travel expenses, but Perri also emphasized that cost should not deter students from applying for the class. Perri hopes to arrange financial assistance with the SOC dean’s office for students demonstrating financial need.

During the travel component of the class, students will stay in Manchester, N.H., but will also travel outside the city each day to attend and analyze campaign events. The class will split into small groups with an approximate 1:7 student to faculty ratio. Students will be responsible for work missed in their Friday, Monday and Tuesday classes during the trip to N.H.

“You can get the kind of up close and personal sense of the election that you can’t get after New Hampshire,” Perri said.

Professor Benedetto emphasized the invaluable hands-on experience students will gain through the course.

“So much of political science is theory. This is a perfect example of seeing the system in action,” Benedetto said. “The students really seem to love it.”

Peter McEachern, a freshman majoring in political science, heard about the class through an email sent out by SPA and plans to apply. He thinks the class could be a unique learning experience that might help him decide what type of work he would want to go into in the future.

“I think getting some hands-on experience and learning about the inner workings of a presidential campaign would really help me,” McEachern said.

Students interested in applying for the course should send a cover letter about their interest in taking the class and how they would benefit from the field experience to and fill out this Google form before 9 a.m. on Oct. 9.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Molly O'Rourke's name. A previous version of this story also incorrectly stated that the class would require an application for the first time. An application has been required every year but will be more competitive this year.

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