Fall courses focus on presidential election

GW offers an array of classes on politics, campaigning and government. But this fall many professors are offering classes specifically tailored to the election.

Journalism professor Sean Aday’s campaigns and elections class, for example, is only taught during semesters when campaigns are happening.

“Doing a class like this is so exciting because every day you’re talking about what happened the day before or that morning,” Aday said. “It’s most relevant, most exciting and most salient to students. It’s just a lot more fun. There’s a lot more material every day that you’re able to use; you’re able to see the campaign unfold as you are talking about it.”

He said Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin are among those candidates discussed in his class.

“We’ve talked about the McCain ads, the issue of race and gender,” Aday said. “The discussion has focused a lot on media coverage of Sarah Palin.”

Classes focused on the election have also created a forum for students to share their ideas and knowledge of politics.

“Many of them are working on campaigns, so they have a lot to bring to the discussion,” Aday said.

Professor Steven Keller, who teaches political campaign advertising and political debate, said this could be the first major election that many students experienced because of their ages. The 2000 election happened “before a student’s political awakening,” he said.

Keller, like Aday, uses current campaign coverage to add to his classes.

“Students are more motivated, and you can make direct references to current events,” he said of his classes. “You can refer to a debate the kids saw a week ago and it’s not something just in a textbook or history lecture notes.”

Professor Al May, who teaches a class on campaign reporting and has brought guest speakers to his class that include the ABC Washington bureau chief and a CNN reporter following a campaign. May said his students are more involved now than ever before.

“I can’t remember a campaign where students were as engaged as they are this time,” he said.

Junior Mike Ballaban said May’s campaign reporting class “has really given me an impetus to watch the election.”

Junior Marcia Newbert, a political communication major, said she selected her classes this semester based on what was being offered with regard to the election. She is in May’s campaign reporting class and Keller’s campaign advertising class.

“I waited to take (the classes) now because I thought it would be cool to take it during elections,” she said. “It is just so relevant. I could take it at another time, but to take it when the election is dominating our news is really awesome because I almost feel like I’m living it.”

“Virtually every political science class is full this semester,” political science professor Forrest Maltzman said. He has adjusted his American presidency class to meet the interest and the timing.

“I’ve probably spent four weeks this semester discussing presidential elections,” he said. “In a non-election year, that is probably a week and a half.”

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