From the Classroom to the Democratic National Convention Hall

Victor Cedeno’s academic year began earlier than usual when he arrived in Denver in mid-August for seminars, lectures and volunteer opportunities with the Democratic National Convention. The Drake University sophomore has been taking part in a two-week academic and internship program organized by the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars in association with Denver-based Regis University.

One of many hundreds of college students in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, Cedeno sought access to it for both the historic achievement of a major national U.S. party nominating the first African-American as a presidential candidate and the value as a learning experience. Professors have also flocked to the Democratic party convention, using the experience as a teaching opportunity for students they’ve accompanied.

“There’s something about being part of history that attracts everyone. I knew there was a lot more to it than just the convention; I knew there would be a lot of events; a lot of opportunities to meet people and network, and I certainly have done that and benefited from it,” Cedeno says.

“I feel like I’ve learned more in these last two weeks than I have in a semester’s worth of school,” he adds.

In addition to attending lectures and volunteering as a security and housing aide for the Democratic National Committee, Cedeno, a politics and psychology major, has blogged about his convention experience along with several other Drake University students.

Preparing for his duties as a security aide, Cedeno wrote that a “group of us were volunteers as security for the first-ever open house event for the Democratic National Convention. We arrived an hour early (6:00 a.m.) so that we could tour the hall. As we entered the Pepsi Center, the excitement was in the air.”

He further observes that it’s known “that conventions are a lot more Hollywood than politics. The nominee has already been chosen. The purpose of the convention is to coronate the candidate and present him or her to the American public. It is a staged act and, this time, the Democrats have gone out of their way to make sure the stage is fit for a great act.”

Cedeno has credentials to attend U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s nomination acceptance speech at the Invesco Field at Mile High stadium tonight. A native of the Dominican Republic who is a legal U.S. resident, Cedeno says he won’t be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election. While he expects to become a U.S. citizen in the next few years, he says he’ll likely pursue law school and a graduate degree in public policy or public administration.

While students, such as Cedeno, have sought to enhance their classroom learning with the experience of attending a national party convention, numerous college professors and scholars are accompanying students and have made Denver into a virtual classroom.

One such professor, University of Iowa political scientist Dr. David Redlawsk has been teaching remotely from the convention. Chosen as a delegate, Redlawsk had been scheduled to teach two courses on political campaigns during the convention. His solution was to teach from the convention using Webcams and video and text blogs.

Interviewing politicians, campaign staff, journalists, celebrities and delegates about their experiences at the convention, Redlawsk has been posting the interviews online along with his own commentary. A total of 60 students are in the courses, according to the University of Iowa. Redlawsk has joined his students live via webcam to lead discussions.

“The topic of the courses is campaigning, and I’m going to be in the middle of one of the biggest campaign events. It just seemed natural to connect these things,” Redlawsk says.

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