Granite State Debates Provide Invaluable Student Experiences

September 11, 2018

By Alexis Soucy

September 4 - 7, the auditorium of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) at Saint Anselm College was transformed into a live television studio by WMUR-TV for the Granite State Debate Series. The four pre-primary debates, featuring the Republican and Democratic candidates for the U.S. House and the Democratic candidates for governor, presented many opportunities for student involvement.

During the four nights in which a record-breaking 24 candidates appeared, Saint Anselm students were involved in all aspects of production.

Each candidate was assigned a student handler who could answer their questions and keep them on schedule; this allowed many students to interact personally with their candidate and the campaign staff. Several students participated as stand-ins on stage while cameras and microphones were tested ahead of each debate. The student panelists posed questions for those behind the podium to answer, keeping participants engaged just as the candidates would be in the actual debate.

“As a politics and communication double major, it was fascinating to see the two worlds become one as a stand-in for the debates,” said Christina Damian ’20. “You could almost imagine what it must be like for candidates to be on the same stage and debating live. Experiences like these are truly unique to Saint Anselm.”

The debates presented a unique opportunity for NHIOP TV Crew leader and communication major Anthony Vezza ’19, who spent one of the debates behind the scenes to help with the live production.

“I have always had interest in production, specifically video, so it was incredible to see how everything was composed for the debates in real-time,” shared Vezza. ”They even had me stand at the podium to frame the opening shot!”

Other student roles included registering and ushering guests, and assisting members of the media in the post-debate spin room.

“Saint Anselm College students are very motivated, especially in politics,” explained NHIOP Executive Director Neil Levesque. “When big events like the Granite State Debates come to the Institute, our students get to interact with candidates and see New Hampshire politics in action.”

The next Granite State Debate Series will be held at the NHIOP in late October, before the general election.