Prime-time politics

Drake hosted a presidential debate during the 2008 election cycle as well.

A hub for political activity

Drake University is experienced in serving as the center of political discourse in Iowa and the nation — and is deliberate in transforming our place in the national dialogue into valuable opportunities for its students.

In 2000, Drake paired about 60 students with media outlets such as ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX and PBS as more than 100 TV stations broadcasted Iowa caucus results from the Drake Knapp Center.

In 2007, Drake hosted live nationally televised debates featuring nine Republican presidential candidates and eight Democratic presidential candidates. Both debates, moderated by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos with additional questioning from David Yepsen of The Des Moines Register, were broadcast as special editions of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” The broadcasts provided paid work opportunities for 20 students during the Republican debate and 40 students during the Democratic debate.

This year, Drake will expand on this history of exceptional political events. On Dec. 10, 2011, Drake will host a nationally televised, prime-time debate sponsored by ABC News, The Des Moines Register, the Republican Party of Iowa, Yahoo and ABC5/WOI-DT. The ABC News team has selected 25 student interns and 10 alternates to assist with important logistics during the week of the debate.

Student opportunities abound during nationally televised debate

The Drake University community is preparing for a televised, prime-time debate December 10 that will bring with it top presidential candidates, hundreds of journalists, crowds of voters and — perhaps most important — a wealth of opportunities for undergraduate students.

The crew from ABC News/Yahoo, the Republican Party of Iowa, The Des Moines Register and ABC5/WOI-DT has selected 25 students and 10 alternates for paid internship opportunities during the week leading up to and the day of the debate.

“Drake’s location in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses, provides students a rich diversity of opportunities to view and experience the political process in all its forms, from campaigning to news reporting to civil protesting,” says Rachel Caufield, associate professor of politics and Drake’s director of caucus planning. “Working on a nationally televised debate with major, respected organizations will provide students a particularly active and meaningful role in the political and journalistic process.”

Student workers will be immersed in the enormous media and political production. In addition to a swarm of staff members from the sponsor organizations, coordinators expect the debate to draw at least 700 journalists from news agencies around the world.

“I’m sure that spending the week working with hundreds of other people in the media will get me excited for my future career,” says Sean Walsh, a senior public relations major. “It will be great to see Drake represented in such a noteworthy and positive way, and I’ll be able to say I was a part of that.”

Students will assist ABC News producers, technical staff and news personnel in preparing for this extremely complex event. Some will even find themselves transporting media personalities like debate anchors Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopolous to and from the airport.

For many eager undergraduate students, this opportunity will complement two, three or even four prior internships. Caitlin Angel, a junior pursuing a dual degree in advertising and graphic design, has held marketing-related internships with the Des Moines Buccaneers, New York and Company, and the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Through those internships, I have learned a lot about organization and time management, taking direction, and conducting myself in a professional manner,” Angel says. “I think working for ABC will be an expansion of what I have learned in the classroom — that as journalists it is our responsibility to give people the information they need to make clear and conscious decisions about what’s going on around them.”

For students, the debate’s combination of big-name professional outlets and large-scale production can equal a major resume boost. In August 2007, students performed similar responsibilities during Republican and Democratic presidential debates on campus — and their work was highly praised.

“We were so impressed with the caliber of the Drake student volunteers who worked with us. They were an essential force in putting together the ABC News Republican debate at your fine University,” Kathy O’Hearn, executive producer of “This Week with George Stephanopolous” and executive producer of ABC News’ Iowa Debates, said in 2007. “All dedicated self-starters, each one of these knowledgeable, courteous students went the extra mile whenever and wherever they could. They helped make our debate a smashing success.”

Luke Braland, a junior electronic media major, worked last year as executive content producer for the Drake Relays — one of the nation’s largest student-run television productions. He trusts that experience, paired with this upcoming debate, will make him a top candidate for media jobs.

“Working with ABC is definitely one professional accomplishment that I will put at the top of my resume for a very long time,” he says. “It will be a memorable experience that improves my knowledge of the news industry.”

– Aaron Jaco, AS’07, JO’07

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