Saint Anselm College is Center Stage at the Centennial N.H. Primary
February 10, 2016
Photo: (left to right) Brian Pickowicz '16, Lauren Wanless '17, Colleen Sears '16, Margaret (Maggie) Lynch '17, and Patrick Hollister '17.
This election year represents a milestone in American political history, as the New Hampshire Presidential Primary turns 100. All the candidates and many members of the global media were here for the first-in-the-nation event, and Saint Anselm had a front row seat.
This much political action on and around campus is nothing new for the college, which has hosted primary debates by both parties for the past 50 years (including a Democratic and a Republican debate this year), and is home to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP), which holds programming and brings nationally-known speakers to campus on an ongoing basis.
However, this year is something special. Neil Levesque, Executive Director of the NHIOP, and also the chairman of the New Hampshire Primary 100th Anniversary Commission, explains why.
"The 100th anniversary of the primary is an opportunity to celebrate, but more importantly, to educate America about the great service New Hampshire performs in the selection process," says Levesque. "It originated because the state wanted to give power to the people, and candidates have always liked it because they get to interact so directly with voters. That tradition still holds true today -the primary is about the people."
Students Work With Candidates and Media
Saint Anselm College students had many chances over the course of the past week to directly participate in that tradition. Candidates and journalists flocked here for the event, and parts of campus literally became stages for primary coverage.
Fox News broadcast live from Davison Hall, the Cushing Center, and the quad in front of Alumni Hall from Sunday, Feb. 6 until the conclusion of the primary on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Fox and Friends, America's Newsroom, Coast to Coast, Shepherd Smith Reporting Live, Your World With Neil Cavuto, The Kelly File, and Hannity Live all highlighted Saint Anselm and Alumni Hall in the snow that fell the weekend and day before the primary.
Students worked with Fox throughout, doing a wide variety of tasks and errands- up to and including picking up Chris Wallace at his hotel before his show (as Matthew Guzzardi '17 did on Sunday morning). William Owen, a freshman math major with an interest in criminal justice, assisted in setting up the North Lounge in Cushing as Fox workspace. He says, "I've never known how much work goes into a news channel and setting up a station- I wasn't a big viewer before, but I'm going to watch more from now on."
In addition to Fox, Saint Anselm students worked extensively on candidate campaigns and with other media outlets in downtown Manchester. These included CBS and NBC, who were covering the primary from the Radisson Hotel, along with ABC News, WGBH, the Associated Press and many others. The atmosphere was hectic, with candidates and media personalities circulating.
"We've seen lots of notable figures in the halls," says communication major Elizabeth (Liz) Torrey '17. Bob Schieffer from CBS News; MSNBC's Chris Matthews; CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett; Chuck Todd from Meet The Press; lesser-known candidate Vermin Supreme; and candidates Donald Trump, Governor John Kasich, Governor Chris Christie, and Governor Jeb Bush are only the start of the list.
Along with Torrey, Katelyn (Katie) Holtshouser '19, Casey Riley '17, Ariana Smith '19, Zef Vataj '18, and Jacob Boesch '18, as well as almost 30 other students, worked long days as runners for the networks. They picked up and delivered film, assisted with set ups, sat in on candidate events, and did anything that needed to be done to help the producers, engineers, journalists and staff make the news.
"Being in the middle of everything has been an awesome experience," says Lauren Wanless '17. "Manchester has never been so busy."
Civic Engagement and Career Aspirations
Such close-up exposure to the primary has inspired many Saint Anselm students who weren't as engaged in politics prior to become more active and involved, and in many cases, to evaluate their future career choices.
"When things first started happening at school with holding the debates, I started paying attention," says Riley, who is a business major. "This has been a great opportunity to broaden my horizons and learn all about politics and journalism and what goes into it. It's interesting and makes me think about pursuing a career in this field."
"I'm holding off on voting, because so much new information keeps coming in. It's so active here and on campus, it's hard to not pay attention. This is my first time making a real informed, intellectual voting decision. It feels very empowering, and I definitely credit Saint A's with providing me with that exposure," says Colleen Sears '16, a communication major working with NBC at the Radisson.
Simply stated by Guzzardi: "Learning to be an active citizen can apply to any career."
The results of the 2016 primary last night recorded victories for Donald Trump (35.2% of the GOP vote) and Bernie Sanders (60% of the Democratic vote), with a record-breaking voter turnout over 60%. Voters included many Saint Anselm students, who took a shuttle which ran every 15 minutes until 7 p.m. from the Abbey Church to the polls. The shuttle was offered by student club the Green Team in partnership with San Francisco-based environmental advocacy organization, NextGenClimate.
Although the candidates will leave New Hampshire today for the next contest in South Carolina, the college and the NHIOP will continue the mission to engage the community and encourage civic engagement with the political process as it unfolds.
College president Steven R. DiSalvo confirms, "It is a continuing and vital part of our educational mission to help our students, our community, and the citizens of our state develop the knowledge and skills they need to live in and help lead our nation. Saint Anselm will always be a unique place where it all comes together, not just every four years, but every day."