Every four years Saint Anselm takes center stage as host of the only New Hampshire-based debate(s) leading up to the First in the Nation New Hampshire Primary—creating opportunities and memories for students that will last a lifetime.

Along with photos from this year’s debate, we hear from a few of our alumni who have gone on to careers in politics and the media on what their most memorable moments were while working the debates as students—and how these experiences led them to where they are today.

Lauren Chooljian ’10

Reporter, Politics and Policy, NHPR

Lauren Chooljian ’10 in the spin room for the ABC Democratic Debate
Photo by Leah LaRiccia

My favorite moment, by far, was the day I found out Candy Crowley was a math major. I was a runner for the CNN debates in the summer of 2007, a time when Candy was CNN’s lead political reporter and I was a confused soon-to-be sophomore, obsessed with figuring out what the heck I should choose as a major. I remember waiting on the quad for Candy to finish a live shot, and the minute the camera went off, I marched up to her and told her my situation: I think I wanted to be like her one day. We didn’t have journalism at Saint Anselm then—should I choose politics? What was her major? “Math!” she told me. “I thought I was going to write the great American novel!”

All this to say, I learned a big lesson that day: It wasn’t my major that would decide my future. Candy was brave and curious and found jobs in newsrooms and kept hustling hard, working her way up the ladder. So that’s what I decided to do.

By the way, I ended up choosing history.

Donald Stokes ’17

Director of Government Affairs for the Professional Fire Fighters Union of New Hampshire Formerly Deputy State Political Director for Sen. Cory Booker Campaign

Donald Stokes ’17 in the NHIOP Lobby
Photo by David A. Hamilton, Jr.

During my junior year, I was a runner for MSNBC News, and was able to work with broadcast personalities such as Joe Scarborough and Tamron Hall. We did a lot of behind-the-scenes work, like having to track down an American flag and a New Hampshire flag for a backdrop—it took hours to set up this one shot. And while I work in Democratic politics, it was impressive seeing political pundits from both sides. Having a chance to meet everyone and hear their stories about how they got where they are today was great—that experience definitely helped me become more politically connected and involved. But my most memorable moment? Probably picking up conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt from the airport. When we dropped him off, he said, “Always remember Republicans tip better than Democrats.”

Kelsey Walsh ’17

Special Events Producer, ABC News

Kelsey Walsh '17
Photo by Leah LaRiccia

As a student, my favorite part of working with ABC was being exposed to some of the best journalists in the business that I’ve admired for so long. One of the most memorable moments was talking with ABC’s campaign reporters and realizing that I too, as a student, had the opportunity to interact personally with each candidate running for the highest office in America, as they do every day for their job. On debate night in 2016, I had a pinch-me moment as I sat in ABC’s production truck watching presidential candidates take the stage on the Hilltop. My role for the night was to buzz candidates when their allotted minute was completed. My pinch-me moments happen more frequently now, but the strongest one of my career happened when I returned to the Hilltop in 2020. I have enormous gratitude for a place I call home, Saint Anselm College.

“ On debate night in 2016, I had a pinch-me moment as I sat in ABC’s production truck watching presidential candidates take the stage on the Hilltop.”

Sally Persons ’13

White House Producer, Fox News

Sally Persons '13
Photo by Leah LaRiccia

The reason I came to Saint Anselm College was to be part of the New Hampshire Primary political process. As a student, I worked the debate in 2012 for ABC News and was introduced to the world of broadcast journalism. My most memorable moment from that cycle was seeing journalists, ones I had always watched and read, eating in Davison Hall, or hanging out in the coffee shop just like me and my fellow classmates. Luckily, I’ve been back on campus the past two campaign cycles for work and it always feels like being home.

Joe Alexander ’17

New Hampshire State Representative,
Finance Director of the NHGOP

Joe Alexander '17
Joe Alexander '17

One of the most memorable opportunities I had in the 2016 election cycle was being able to work in the television studio at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. I was the student attendant in the studio, usually when a Republican candidate or VIP did a news hit. That gave me a unique opportunity to talk one-on-one with presidential candidates and see what they were like off-camera As a New Hampshire Republican Primary voter, I used that one-on-one time to meet the real candidate and ask questions I thought were important. I used the information I learned and the conversations with the candidates at the ballot box when I voted for president for the first time in the Republican Presidential Primary in 2016.

“As a New Hampshire Republican Primary voter, I used that one-on-one time to meet the real candidate and ask questions I thought were important.”

Phoebe Ferraiolo ’17

Deputy Press Secretary, U.S. Sen.
Susan Collins, R-Maine

Phoebe Ferraiolo '17

As a junior, I worked as a runner for Fox News during the New Hampshire Primary/Fox News Republican debate. The morning after the debate, “Fox News Sunday” aired live from Davison Hall, and I was assigned to greet Governor Jeb Bush and lead him into the Presidential Dining Room where breakfast was set up. In addition to Governor Bush, Governor John Kasich and Governor Chris Christie were also being interviewed on Fox News that morning. Christie and Kasich were already in the dining room when I brought Bush in. They all immediately started talking and joking about the debate the night before. It was so interesting to hear their candid conversations, when the night before, they were battling it out on the debate stage.

After the New Hampshire primary, I went on to work as a production assistant for Fox News at several events, including the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, election night at Trump Headquarters in New York City, and Trump’s inauguration in D.C.

Katherine Buck ’20

CBS Student Runner

Katherine Buck ’20
Photo by Leah LaRiccia

On primary day, runners were given different tasks and locations to report to, and I was assigned to CBS This Morning at Café la Reine in Manchester. The show’s co-host, Tony Dokoupil, was scheduled to report live from Café la Reine in the morning, and then later from a polling station in Manchester. I was asked to join a producer for the segment to be held at the polling station. When we arrived, the producer received a call that the polling station segment needed to change completely. Given limited time, the producer quickly helped create new shots for the segment, and then walked his team and Tony through the new segment. Being able to witness what happens behind the scenes of a live broadcast was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I will never forget.

“Being able to witness what happens behind the scenes of a live broadcast was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I will never forget.”

Thank You, Lorie

By Laura (Rossi) Lemire '06

On May 15, following a 27-year career on the Hilltop, Lorie Cochrane, executive assistant at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) and a mom of sorts (mentor, supporter, manager) to the thousands of students who passed through her office door, retired. To say she left her mark on this campus would be an understatement.

Photo by Jeff Dachowski
Photo by Jeff Dachowski

“Lorie has been key to the great success of the NHIOP and making Saint Anselm a nationally recognized civic location,” says Neil Levesque, executive director of the NHIOP. “While she has taken the lead on many projects and programs, her most important contribution has been the individual attention she has given to thousands of students—she is one of the most beloved members of the Saint Anselm community because of it.”

Since she was hired in 1993, Lorie worked for the Dana Center, Dining Services, the NHIOP, the Institute’s Research Centers, and the Department of Politics. As a student-favorite, she was invited to senior formals and asked to chaperone trips. She was the first advisor to the Seton Service Society founded in 1999, and was the originator of the Stoneface stamp that now appears on every poster and flyer found on campus. She also was awarded the Walter J. Gallo ’58 Alumni Award from the Alumni Association in 2012.

Lorie started in the Dana Center, working in the box office part-time. Then she spent some time as a bookkeeper for the coffee shop. In 1995, she returned to the Dana Center as the reservation coordinator and administrative assistant. She was assisting with campus events in Dana when the NHIOP was dedicated and opened in September 2001, and by the end of October the team at the NHIOP had recruited Lorie to help with their ever-expanding programming.

“I would never have been able to get the residential summer women’s leadership forum [NEW Leadership New England] Jennifer Lucas of the politics department and I ran for eight years without her,” says Professor Elizabeth Ossoff, chair of the psychology department. “She is one of the most dedicated and resourceful people on this campus—she cares for the students, faculty and staff here in a way that makes me wonder how the place will be the same without her smile, her enthusiasm, and her energy.”

Lorie recalls her first event at the NHIOP when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited on November 2, 2001. Requiring special protocol when hosting a foreign dignitary, she had to confirm flags on the stage and deal with very tight security parameters.

“Whether she was supporting faculty, handling logistics for a guest speaker, assisting at debates or helping a student, Lorie was the perfect combination of administrative rock star and Benedictine hospitality steward,” says Anne Broderick Botteri ’82, former executive director of the NHIOP. “She was especially committed to the NHIOP’s ethos to never waiver in its intention to put students first, ensuring they had access and opportunity to engage in real-time with thought leaders, journalists, and the men and women who seek our nation’s highest offices, including the presidency.”

In her 19 years at the Institute, Lorie’s role continued to evolve until she became an executive assistant for Executive Director Neil Levesque in addition to assisting the politics department, advising the Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassador Program and managing the VideoLink Studio. She has worked with every executive director and hundreds of students. Through the Institute’s video studio, which is the only live production and broadcast studio in the Greater Manchester area, outside of a newsroom, she has welcomed countless guests and public figures, many of whom now know her by name.

During her tenure, Lorie met almost every presidential candidate who visited campus; she even hosted Joe Biden at her own home in 2010. Pictures of her with politicians litter her office, not to be outdone though by the pictures of her with students. Lorie says students and the ambassador program are what she will miss most. She has kept every note a student has ever written her and insists she will carry them with her long after retirement.

As her beloved Dana Center manager Donald Cox used to say to her at the end of every day, “Lorie, thank you for a great day.”

From all of us on the Hilltop, Lorie, thank you for a great day, and a great career, and enjoy a much-deserved retirement.