Donors’ gifts enable students to go on the campaign trail in NH

A donor-supported trip during winter break 2015 enabled 27 Virginia Commonwealth University students to get valuable face time with presidential hopefuls including Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio.The political science course, Political Campaigns and Communication, led by Alexandra Reckendorf, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Humanities and Sciences, gave students an opportunity to learn about strategy and modern campaigning from national political leaders and insiders.

Course participants traveled to New Hampshire for the presidential primary thanks to nearly $40,000 in contributions provided by Robert Hansan (B.A.’86/H&S) and the Hansan Family Foundation; VCU Board of Visitors member Bob Holsworth, Ph.D., a former faculty member in the department and former dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences; and best-selling author David Baldacci (B.A.’83/H&S).

Students attended town halls featuring nearly every candidate, engaged candidates in one-on-one discussions, snagged a few selfies and were interviewed by some of the nation’s leading news outlets. As a result, students had an unfiltered view of the candidates’ nuanced policy positions that “they can’t get from just watching a debate or just watching a 60-second ad,” Reckendorf says.

Experiences such as the New Hampshire presidential primary trip are becoming an increasingly important part of college curricula and an opportunity for students that donors, including Baldacci, appreciate.

“Every presidential election is important, but the upcoming one may be especially significant, particularly for the millennial generation,” he says. “Policies instituted in the next few years could resonate for many decades. Thus, I was thrilled to be a sponsor of the student trip to the New Hampshire presidential primary. Engagement in the political process is vital for all citizens if we are to remain a great democracy, and I applaud VCU and the political science department for putting this opportunity together. It was a deeply worthy initiative.”

Fellow political science alumnus Hansan agrees. “Every opportunity that a student has to see how politics works up close and personal is time and money well spent,” he says. “It’s easy to read the news, hear the slogans and simply follow along. But immersive involvement with the process and people involved is priceless education. I’m glad to say I had a very small part in making that a reality.”

To learn more about the College of Humanities and Sciences, contact Bethanie Constant, senior director of development, at (804) 828-4543 or constantb@vcu.edu.