During the winter break, 18 mass communication and political science students and two teachers traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, to observe and report on the Iowa Caucus.
The Louisianians were impressed with the political interest of the Iowans and the political atmosphere of the caucus in general.
The trip was organized by mass communication professor Bob Mann and political science professor Dr. Wayne Parent to give students personal insight into the caucus.
"Iowa residents really care and the caucus means so much to them. The rest of the country places a lot of emphasis on Iowa, but the residents deserve it because they really take the time to do their homework," said Amanda Collura, mass communication senior. She said Iowa residents do not realize how lucky they are to have the first primary.
"Iowa is a place where campaigning is still intimate and retail, which will change considerably in a couple of weeks when the campaigning goes wholesale," Mann said.
The group of students talked to political strategists and met the five major candidates. They were given press credentials, so they were able to get close to the candidates and talk to the Iowa residents in attendance.
"The political climate for Iowans is friendlier and more open than many of us are used to, having dealt with some of the bitterness and hush-hush tendencies of people in the South, and it's this genuine concern that enables the types of discussions and debates which make the caucus such a unique and effective political tool," said Matthew McCleur, political science senior.
The students then posted blogs, videos and pictures on the Manship School web site. The blog site received more than 3,000 hits, according to blog designer Adam Parker.
"The blogs provided a local community perspective to events in the national spotlight," said Paul Harang, mass communications graduate student.
The group also ate dinner with Charlie Cook, a Louisiana native and national political guru. He shared his opinions about the presidential election and the importance of the caucus.
"It was incredible to hear the opinions of someone like Cook who is in the thick of it on a daily basis," said Megan Peterson, political science senior.
She said that Mike Huckabee was impressed that students would travel all the way from Louisiana, and he was "every bit as charming as he seems on television."
Collura said before she left for Iowa, most of her friends at home did not even know what a caucus was, but became more interested once they had a personal connection. She also said the videos posted to the site were unedited and showed the events as they happened unlike the ones on the news.
The trip came about as a result of a brainstorming session between Mann and Parent. Mann said that they wanted to give the students a first-hand view of the process. They introduced the idea to students in upper-level political communication and political science classes until they had enough students to fill two vans.
© 2008 The Daily Reveille via U-WIRE