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Election year brings new lessons for students

Posted on Sep 28, 2012
Students are getting involved in this fall's election through new political science courses, activities and a Get Out The Vote campaign.

By Elizabeth Reichert
University Relations student writer

With election season in full swing, UW-Superior's political science program is working to further educate students about the nation's political process.Initiatives include three new courses, a Get Out The Vote campaign for the coming election, and a trip to Washington, D.C., with the Political Science Association student organization.

"We hope the effort continues to evoke not only having people show up to vote but also to be involved in a multitude of ways," Dr. Alisa Von Hagel, assistant professor of political science. "It's not just about voting but also about figuring out where candidates stand and being involved all the time, not just on election day." 

New courses and seminars

Von Hagel is teaching two new courses this semester on elections and campaigns - one an upper-level course and the other a first-year seminar.

Her upper-level course takes a fairly traditional look at campaigning, examining fundraising, electoral context and emotional aspects of reasoning among other topics. Students critique campaign ads, analyze how traditional campaigning applies to current context, and make observations and predictions about the results of the current presidential election.

The first-year seminar has students thinking through the different parts of a campaign, including developing a campaign team, fundraising and thinking of various ways to transmit a candidate's message.

Students also are assembling a campaign portfolio for themselves as if they were running for office. The goal is to think through what it means to organize a political campaign, even at the local level.

Get Out The Vote

Students in both classes are involved in the program's Get Out The Vote effort as part of an academic service-learning component. Students have a table in the Yellowjacket Union each day where they will assist others in registering to vote and provide information about candidates.

In addition to new courses on campaigns and elections, the political science program is offering a course on conservative political thought taught by Dr. Daniela Mansbach, associate professor of political science.

Mansbach developed the class to help students understand differences in political thought, whether they be conservative, liberal, independent, or somewhere in-between.

"The premise of the class is to try to understand the ideological differences, to understand the ideological foundations of conservative thought," Mansbach said, "and what that can do for our students is to allow them to understand themselves better and understand what different sides believe."

Understanding their own beliefs

Mansbach hopes the course will give students the tools they need to better understand their own political beliefs. Throughout the class, students read materials by conservative thinkers as well as opposing views. They also have opportunities to debate complex issues.

In the current election season, Mansbach says that the course adds a strong theoretical component and background to the election and political discussion.

"Because they're challenging basic assumptions about politics, about opinions, it makes students better able to feel able to take part in discussions," she said.

Debates and discussions

The political science program with the Political Science Association will live-stream presidential debates and facilitate discussions on them.

On Nov. 6, the program will host an election night party where faculty, staff, and students can gather to watch as the results are tallied, discuss politics, participate in contests and quizzes to win prizes, or just relax and watch the polls in an informal, nonpartisan setting.

Trip to Washington

Students can learn personally about politics and the political process over spring break through a trip to Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Political Science Association.

Students are hoping to meet with representatives, senators and interns to learn first-hand how the federal government works and to explore how they got into their fields and what students can do to start now.

Elizabeth Jacobsen, a senior political science major with a concentration in American politics from Middleton, Wis., anticipates the trip having an impact on the campus.        

"I hope to bring back to campus our knowledge and use it in our classes," she said. "I would like the trip as an example to raise more awareness of what goes on in government."

Students who are interested in the trip can contact Jacobsen at

Student Voting Guide for Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin System also offers a student guide to voting in Wisconsin.

News Contact: Al Miller | 715-394-8260 | amiller{atuws}
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