Clarion Students “Tweet” from Political Conventions

Clarion political science majors Lauren Sigmund and Erika Minster talk with Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt at the Democratic National Convention. (Provided photo)

Thanks to a partnership between Clarion University and The Washington Center, 16 Clarion students are witnessing the political process in action as participants of 2012 political conventions.

Nine students participated in the Republican National Convention, which wrapped up last month in Tampa, Fla., and seven students are participating in the Democratic National Convention, which began yesterday in Charlotte, N.C.

In addition, to fieldwork assignments, the 16 students are using Twitter to share their experiences.

As part of this process, Clarion students:

–Met and/or interviewed John Voight, former CNN anchor Aaron Brown, former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, Rep. Ron Paul, Sen. Rick Santorum, and others.

–Worked with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, CNN, The Dallas Morning News, PA State Senator Bob Casey, TalkRadioNewsService, Creative Coalition, DNCC, and other party, media, and interest groups as a part of their fieldwork assignments.

–Heard speakers including Rep. Melvin Watt, former chair of Congressional Black Caucus; Ann Romney; media historian Walter Podrazik; Walter Cronkite, professor of journalism at Arizona State; Clint Eastwood; and others.

–Had/will have the opportunity to watch presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama accept their respective party’s nominations.

Dr. Kevan Yenerall, professor of political science at Clarion, said attending the conventions is “quintessential experiential learning.”

Students will spend the week before each convention hearing speakers, including elected officials and media scholars, who will frame the election for the students. They will meet with their professors and visit the convention sites and media outlets. Students are required to keep a journal based on the speakers.

“When the students are there, they will actually participate in the political process by being placed in a field work position the week of the convention,” Yenerall said. “It’s an unparalleled, up-close view of the convention – living it, breathing it.”

Placement could include a party organization, interest group or media outlet.

At the end of the two weeks, students will have a grade assigned based on their journals, and they will do an evaluation on their field work with their supervisor. Yenerall said it’s an academically rigorous experience.

“You’re there and walking down the street and meeting the mayor of New York City or the governor of Pennsylvania or George Stephanopoulos – the leading government and media officials in the country,” Yenerall said. “This would be political Disneyland. Students who have gone have absolutely adored it, being right in the heart of history.”

When they return to Clarion University, the learning continues.

“We’ll integrate all of the experiences the students had and couple that with readings,” Yenerall said. “More than likely the students will make university-wide presentations.”

This is Yenerall’s third time participating in The Washington Center’s National Political Conventions seminar; he attended and sent students in 2004 and 2008. Students may also apply to take a seminar that includes the inauguration process. In 2004 a Clarion student attended President George W. Bush’s second inauguration.

The Washington Center was founded in 1975 by William M. Burke, whose mission was to cultivate and transform the younger generation into civically minded citizens.

Go to and search #clarionu to follow these students (all hometowns are in Pennsylvania unless otherwise noted).

Republican National Convention

Thomas McConnell, Volant
Samuel Curtis, Punxsutawney
Matthew Knoedler, Saegertown
John Owens, Nesquehoning
Michael Friend, Union Township
Emily Miller, State College
Amber Smith, Petrolia
Erin Krotoszynski, Erie
Dylan Kristufek, Butler

Democratic National Convention

Cassandra Hartman, Silver Gate, Mo.
Sharon Moser, Millville
Chantel Peterson, Pittsburgh
Lauren Sigmund, Pittsburgh
Prince Matthews, Pittsburgh
Darren Young, Duncannon
Erika Minster, Lehighton

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