January term (J-Term) is just one of the many unique academic opportunities that Randolph-Macon College offers. During the month of January, R-MC students have the opportunity to enroll in one or two classes in order to get ahead on their required coursework. In addition, the month-long time frame provides students the opportunity to travel and study abroad.
J-Term travel courses provide an excellent way for students to travel for a brief period of time. Fortunately, many of R-MC’s travel course options are cost-effective. Students who traveled this year had great places to choose from, including Cuba and England. Still, a select few students chose to travel within the United States to visit New Hampshire for a rare academic opportunity.
This year, 10 R-MC students had the opportunity to get an up-close look at the political world by traveling to Manchester, New Hampshire. This once-in-a-lifetime experience was granted to students enrolled in the Political Science course “Retail Politics: Presidential Campaigning in the U.S.” The course was created and taught by Professor Elliott Fullmer.
The Macon students who participated in this J-Term travel course visited New Hampshire during the perfect time—the New Hampshire primary. With the 2016 presidential election quickly approaching, the New Hampshire primary is one of the most important campaigns during the primary period. Since the primary dates fell during J-Term, Professor Fullmer believed that the political event would be the perfect opportunity to help create a course that focused on the campaigning process.
A week before the students left campus for this exclusive trip, the class met to discuss the nomination process for presidential candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties. In addition, they discussed the various elements within the sophisticated campaigning process, including methods that campaign teams use to attract voters, like phone banking.
The New Hampshire primary plays an important role in deciphering the nominated candidates within the Democratic and Republican parties. Although students had the chance to see this crucial political process up close, they were also active participants within various events throughout the trip.
During this trip, each student was allowed to pick a candidate of their choosing. In doing so, they were put to work with members of the New Hampshire campaign staff for the political candidate they chose. Therefore, the students gained hands-on experience working within a campaign atmosphere.
Although the New Hampshire primary was very hectic and fast-paced, one student in particular embraced the entire experience. During this unique trip, sophomore Kelsey Wilkinson had the time of her life.
“I had a class with Fullmer last year and he had talked about the possibility of a J-Term class that was about the presidency and American elections,” Wilkinson said.
“I’ve never been super interested in campaigns—I never wanted to work on campaigns for a professional job. But, it’s kind of a once in a lifetime chance to work so personally and so up close with such an important part of politics.”
After enrolling in Fullmer’s course, taking the class became a decision that she will never regret. During this trip, she chose to work for Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign team. Clinton is Wilkinson’s favorite presidential candidate. Although her primary task involved plenty of phone banking, she participated in other noteworthy activities.
“I’m so grateful to the school for being able to set this up, but really to Professor Fullmer,” Wilkinson said. “This was Professor Fullmer’s idea and he just took it and ran with it.”
For Wilkinson, one of the most rewarding experiences from the trip involved meeting an elderly couple that she and another Clinton volunteer met when they canvassed the local area.
“She invited us inside. And, she just wanted to talk—she wanted to know why we came all this way,” Wilkinson said. “We told her, and then she shared with us her experience. Like, she had gone to Yale Law School with Hillary Clinton.”
By enrolling in this course, Wilkinson had the opportunity to partake in numerous rewarding experiences. However, she was not the only student who had the time of their life.
Junior Tyler Edmonds made sure that he utilized the rare travel opportunity presented to him.
“I was very interested in the upcoming election and wanted a first hand experience of what it was like in such an important political area,” Edmonds said. “I thought the opportunity would not present itself again to me. So, I took full advantage of it.”
Working on the Donald Trump campaign certainly provided many learning opportunities for Edmonds. As a bonus, he even had the chance to meet Trump! However, his most memorable experience involved attending various candidates’ campaign events.
“You got to see the candidate in a public environment, associating with people who could elect them to office,” Edmonds said. “These were experiences that gave the trip a sense of purpose because there was a personal connection with these people, and they had a genuine interest talking to people, especially students.”
The students that participated in this trip were given the opportunity of a lifetime due to help and guidance from Professor Fullmer and Randolph-Macon College.
Hopefully, this course will continue for years to come so that future R-MC students who have an interest in working within the political world can have the chance to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.
-Dory Jackson ’16, Senior Features Editor