Two Connecticut College students witnessed history this summer by taking part in the 2016 Republican and Democratic national conventions.
An opportunity that only comes around every four years, the Republican and Democratic national conventions mark the culmination of the process to select the presidential and vice presidential candidates of each political party.
Teddy Parsons ’18 traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, for a two-week academic seminar at Baldwin Wallace University that built up to a fieldwork assignment at the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena.
Christina Rankin ’18 was in Philadelphia for her two-week seminar at Temple University and completed her fieldwork assignment at the Democratic National Convention at Wells Fargo Center.
Their path to the conventions began with a nomination by a faculty member and through support from the College’s Office of Career and Professional Development. Parsons and Rankin received valuable support in completing their applications and planning for the trips from their career adviser, Cheryl Banker.
The rising juniors attended the conventions through The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, a D.C.-based nonprofit that looks to enrich and enhance civic and political education among students.
Parsons was among about 130 students from across the nation who took part in the RNC academic seminar. Rankin was one of roughly 165 students attending the DNC through the program.
“Our academic seminars give students an insider’s perspective on the political process—from conventions, to the media, campaigns and national security. The seminars give students a full immersion into the national arena, giving them a powerful platform for engaging in high-impact civil discourse,” said Mike Smith, president of The Washington Center.
Parsons, whose home state is Illinois, volunteered for the Illinois Republican Party as part of his fieldwork during the convention. Parsons is an economics and mathematics double major.
Besides attending academic seminars, volunteering and completing fieldwork at the convention, Parsons had a moment to meet and take a photo with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani when he spoke to the Arkansas delegation. Parsons also met former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele on the first day of the convention.
Parsons was moved by a passionate speech delivered by Sen. Ted Cruz, in which he refused to endorse presidential nominee Donald Trump and pleaded for members of the Republican party to “vote your conscience” this fall. Parsons managed to capture a photo of Cruz delivering his speech that he then shared on Twitter.
While in Cleveland, Parsons was interviewed by CBS Chicago as a representative of the young generation that has been drawn to the Republican party this election cycle.
When asked how he was able to attend the Republican National Convention, Parsons gave credit to Connecticut College and regarded his nomination as an honor.
“I feel very fortunate to have been selected by my college to take part in such an exciting opportunity,” Parsons said. "My unique experience in the political process during the RNC was a manifestation of my ever-increasing passion for politics."
Rankin is a government and economics double major who interned for the Massachusetts Democratic Party last summer and was able to do volunteer work for them at the convention.
Rankin achieved her goal of meeting Sen. Elizabeth Warren while working at a party hosted by the senator. Rankin also saw history being made with the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the first female presidential candidate by a major political party.
Rankin said something she valued from the convention was hearing differing views—like the concerns vocalized by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders who attended.
The experience solidified her goals and have encouraged her to continue on a path of public service.
“Taking part in the academic seminar and attending the convention has reassured me that I made the right choice when I decided that I want to work in politics. I made important professional connections that may help me find a CELS internship next summer or a job upon graduation,” she said. “Most importantly, I formed lasting relationships with students who share my passion.”