Lander University students who took part in activities in Charlotte, N.C., prior to the Democratic National Convention pose in front of an outdoor network broadcast studio. From left: Conner Lewis, of Greenwood; Ryan McNulty, of Jacksonville, Fla.; Richard Stone, of Greenwood; Ariel Fair, of Gadsden; and Tanisha Elder, of Columbia.
Five Lander University political science students and two professors were in Charlotte, N.C., in the days leading up to the Democratic National Convention. It was part of a program organized by Winthrop University's John C. West Forum for Politics and Policy, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving civic engagement. The purpose of the three-day program was to enlighten students about government and politics. Lander was one of 10 institutions of higher education in South Carolina that participated in the event.
The students who went on the trip were: Tanisha Elder, of Columbia; Ariel Fair,
of Gadsden; Ryan McNulty, of Jacksonville, Fla.; and Conner Lewis, and Richard Stone, of Greenwood. They were escorted by Dr. Lucas McMillan and Dr. Chad Kinsella, assistant professors of political science.
After an evening program at Winthrop on Aug. 31, the group arrived in Charlotte
the following day. They all agreed that one of the most interesting aspects was watching the city's transformation with heightened security and the arrival of media as time drew near for the convention to be called to order on Sept. 3.
They heard speakers talk about what it takes to host a national convention and the
advantages to Charlotte, including the economic benefits and improvements in the city's infrastructure to handle the large influx of people. Benefits to communities across the state line in South Carolina were also discussed.
Stone said the students had an opportunity to meet and speak with people from
other parts of the country. They also met with various groups, including members of the South Carolina delegation to the convention, attended caucus and council meetings, witnessed a protest organized by Occupy Charlotte, and heard a wide range of speakers including S.C. Democratic Party leaders, Charlotte Tea Party leaders, a CNN executive producer, a pro-life activist, and a Republican National Committee member who helped plan his party's convention in Tampa.
Lewis, who admits to being a huge fan of the political process, said he was
surprised that the Tea Party and Occupy Charlotte representatives shared many of the same perspectives about their frustration with government.
Elder described it as "a historical moment," and she said she was impressed with
the diversity of the speakers.
McMillan and Kinsella said it was a learning opportunity, not only for their
students, but for themselves as well. Kinsella said the experience exceeded his expectations, while McMillan said it exposed the students to all that is involved in the presidential nomination process.
The Lander students who participated in the preconvention program will receive
Experience Your Education (EYE) credits, which are awarded for completion of approved experiential learning activities. The EYE program was introduced at Lander in 2009.