By James Irwin
Students enrolled in the next cohort of the George Washington University’s Semester in Washington program are going to experience the presidential nomination process firsthand this fall, thanks to a new partnership between GW, the Bipartisan Policy Center and Saint Anselm College.
The collaboration among the three organizations will connect courses at GW and Saint Anselm via videoconference. Guest lectures from leading political thinkers, operators and reporters are sprinkled throughout the syllabus, including Democratic strategist James Carville, former Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades, M.A. ’99, and Yahoo! News columnist Matt Bai. Additionally, Semester in Washington students will travel to New Hampshire for a week in October to engage and volunteer on the presidential campaign of their choice.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Greg Lebel, director of the GW Semester in Washington program. “And I’ve always wanted to do it in conjunction with both Saint Anselm and the Bipartisan Policy Center. This always seemed like such a natural [fit] for us in Semester in Washington, to take advantage of the opportunity of the presidential nominating process. And this is the perfect year because it’s an open seat, so we’ve got races on both sides.”
The Bipartisan Policy Center is providing the money to cover the cost of the GW cohort going to New Hampshire. The agreement combines the BPC’s stable of political operatives, governors and members of Congress with Saint Anselm’s location in New Hampshire (the college is the longtime host of the state’s primary debate) and GW’s connections to national politics and media.
"We’re going to make this program relevant, exciting and timely," Mr. Carville said. "There is no better moment than the thick of a competitive presidential election to dive into what it takes to get a candidate nominated and elected."
Semester in Washington, a program in the College of Professional Studies, provides a hands-on, non-partisan academic experience for students interested in the political process. As part of the program, students complete two courses and an internship matched to their interest.
Topics during the joint course on the presidential nominating process include political reform and youth engagement in politics—areas the Bipartisan Policy Center places a heavy emphasis on, Mr. Lebel said. Students also will hear from Democratic and Republican consultants who will analyze media buying and messaging in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“We’ll also look at the evolving relationship between the media and presidential candidates,” Mr. Lebel said. “Matt Bai wrote a book called ‘All the Truth Is Out’ about how that has been changing. That’s a significant part of how the presidential nominating process plays out.”
Mr. Lebel, a New Hampshire native whose career in politics includes working on the campaigns of Senators George McGovern and Gary Hart, Vice President Al Gore and Governor Howard Dean, knows the state’s political workings as well as anyone. The experience, he said, will be an eye-opener for students. Fourteen are enrolled in the fall 2015 cohort. They come from nine states, including Alaska.
“They’re obviously very engaged in the process—you can tell by reading the material they submitted as part of the application,” he said. “They’re going to be a lot of fun to work with.”