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Mckinley - Summer

SOC and SPA partner for fourth presidential primaries course this spring

Students learn curriculum in-class and through hands-on experience at New Hampshire, South Carolina primaries

The School of Communication and School of Public Affairs will come together this spring semester for the fourth time to offer their collaborative class called “Presidential Primaries.” 

The class will allow undergraduate and graduate students of all majors to get hands-on experience surrounding the communications and political aspects of the 2020 presidential primaries.

“You can only tell so much about a campaign from watching a rally on TV,” said Betsy Fischer Martin, the SPA professor for the course. “Being able to go there, seeing candidates up close and then also being able to talk to voters to get a sense of what’s motivating them [is important].”

SOC professors Molly O'Rourke and Lynne Perri and SPA professor Fischer Martin will teach the course, which has happened during every presidential election season since 2008. 

In class, students will learn about the nomination process, delegate selection process and the role of the media among voters and candidates, among other topics. Students will also hear from field professionals and additional AU staff about their expertise. 

Beyond the classroom, half of the 40 students accepted to the program will travel to Manchester, New Hampshire, and the other half will go to Columbia, South Carolina to experience the primaries firsthand. 

Fischer Martin believes that the experience of attending the primaries adds a unique depth to the curriculum for students to explore. This is the first year students will travel to South Carolina, which will add a new perspective on the primary process.

“It was important to show the diversity of voters and to show what happens as you get to larger states where there’s still a lot of opportunity to come to a larger event or a rally, but less of an opportunity to sit down for a cup of coffee with a candidate,” Perri said.

While at the primaries, students will participate in a variety of activities that exercise what they learned through in-class curriculum. Some of the produced video and writing content is used for projects back at AU. 

Additional created content has been made in partnerships with Snapchat for The Boston Globe in the past. Students traveling to New Hampshire will be working with The Boston Globe again this spring. 

Perri emphasized that the collaborative efforts between the political science and journalism fields give students a detailed look into how these primaries function and provides a “wonderful blend of understanding why campaigns are covered the way they are and why campaigns operate the way they do.”

Applications for Presidential Primaries are due by Oct. 11 by 5 p.m. To submit an application, find the link here.

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