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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
October 18, 2004
Volume 40, Number 3

Election year spawns service projects
Faculty educate community through media appearances


By Laurie Mellas Ramirez

Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger tickled Republican convention goers with the “girly man” reference and John Edwards talked junk food with Regis and Kelly, but history will record 2004 as a somber election year shadowed in war.

UNM faculty across disciplines seized on its importance and made heroic efforts to involve students in the political process prior to Nov. 2.

In addition, and as part of a national pilot program, UNM is among five universities holding a mock presidential election the week of Oct. 24. Results will be reported through Secretary of State offices.

SchuetzUNM faculty in the political science, honors’ and communication and journalism departments are drawing on current political events to strengthen curriculum. Some also do service –educating the community through media appearances.

Jan Schuetz, professor of communication, is teaching political communication incorporating lessons on rallies, advertising, speeches, debates and the influence of media framing and media storytelling. Students will take part in service-learning, volunteering 10-20 hours with a political or issue campaign or voter awareness project. The class also participated in the National Debate Watch program. Local television station, KOB-Channel 4, interviewed the students and broadcast live from Schuetz’s living room on debate nights.

KrebsAssistant Professor Tim Krebs is teaching American Politics. “I’m happy to report that the students appear to be following what is going on this year with greater intensity than in years’ past. My research relates to our discussion of the dynamics of campaign fund-raising, which is critical in presidential primary contests,” said Krebs, who was recently heard on KUNM-FM.

Assistant Professor Olaf Werder teaches an introductory advertising course. “To illustrate the special status political advertising has in the world of advertising, we have discussed in class the differences between a product campaign and a political campaign,” Werder said.

St. ClairLecturer Gilbert St. Clair uses campaign news daily in his media and politics and American politics classes. He was also recently on KUNM, takes part in community panel discussions, and is interviewed by national media.

Sophomore Bennell LaPorte is enrolled in Professor Fred Harris’ Honors Department seminar, “Politics as Vocation or Avocation,” where students learn from guest speakers – experts and candidates – and are required to intern with a congressional campaign.

HarrisLaPorte, from New York, is majoring in political science and minoring in criminology.

“I am interning with the Richard Romero campaign,” she said. “It is mostly canvas work – going door-to-door and letting local residents know about our candidate and where he stands on specific issues.  It can be pretty intimidating if the resident is not responsive to what you are trying to get across, but for the most part, it’s been an absolutely incredible experience.”

“It makes sense that we should get involved in the actual campaigning and election process to get a first hand account of what really goes on behind the scenes,” LaPorte adds. “Being that Professor Harris was a U.S. senator from Oklahoma and ran as a presidential candidate, his experiences are invaluable to the study of political science.  Books can’t really cover what a person who actually went through it can.”

AtkesonAssociate Professor of Political Science Lonna Atkeson is frequently interviewed on the nightly news, locally and nationally. She also works with Pew Charitable Trust, the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University and about a dozen other academics across the country who are monitoring competitive federal elections.  

“Our interest is in following the ground-war as waged by the parties, candidates and the interest groups,” Atkeson said. “Our interest is in learning how these groups work to mobilize voters through mailings, phone calls, personal visits, television and radio ads.”

SierraPolitical Science colleague Christine Sierra also made numerous media appearances, including with the foreign press. Students in Sierra’s course on Hispanics in U.S. politics are focused on the role of Latinos in the 2004 election and are monitoring nine states highly populated with Hispanics.