RIC students will use N.H. primary as an out-of-classroom experience; reporting back to NBC 10    

Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or independent, it doesn’t matter when you enroll in Valerie Endress’ campaign class at RIC because the first assignment is to follow a presidential candidate’s campaign from its declaration right up to the New Hampshire primary, where students will see firsthand their candidates’ triumphs and pitfalls before they reach the media and history books.

RIC Professor Valerie Endress, center, is joined by students who will be in New Hampshire to observe the presidential candidates and their campaigns just days before the nation's first primary.
Even better, the students will get two extra course credits for attending the primary and reacting to what they experienced.

Endress, professor of political communication at RIC, has taken politically engaged students to the New Hampshire primary since 1984, when Ronald Reagan was vying for his presidential second term against Walter Mondale.

This year, she will escort eight students, and three former students now working in politics and media, from Jan. 5-8, so that students will see the momentum leading up to the primary. The group will cover about 500 miles throughout the state to follow the various candidates.

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Endress said that the students see all aspects of a campaign come together at the primary. As they follow their assigned candidate, they are also witness to the behind-the-scenes activities.

“They start seeing things through the eyes of a campaign consultant,” she said.

A new requirement to this year’s campaign course is that students will be tweeting and blogging about their observations and offering political commentary from New Hampshire as events occur, which will be reported on NBC 10, the state’s leading news station, who has again partnered with RIC for political campaign coverage and analysis.

“NBC 10 is excited to once again partner with Rhode Island College for our election coverage this year," said Chris Lanni, NBC 10 news director. "The students’ posts from the New Hampshire primary will add an extra layer of first-person insight and give our audience a fresh perspective on what it is really like on the ground in the Granite State.”

Even if they don’t necessarily support the candidates that they follow, Endress said that by the end of the semester the students develop a personal connection with their candidate and become emotionally involved, getting upset at drops in polls or blunders, and boasting proudly about their successes. As a class, the students have been following the campaigns on a dedicated Facebook page where they post news articles, videos and commentary about the races.

For Tyne Uzo, the experience isn’t limited to following the candidates. “I want to know why students support a candidate, and what future they see for the U.S, and if their respective candidate upholds the ideals for that future,” she said.

Jennifer Collins was following Rick Perry and was hoping to meet him at the primary. She wanted to tell him that he needs her help, she said.

The Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary is the first in the nation and comes a week after the Iowa caucuses.

“I still hear from students who accompanied me on the very first trip, now 28 years ago. They say that the New Hampshire trip was the defining moment for their interest in politics,” Endress said.

USA Today article