UAF students attend national political conventions

Brix Hahn/Sun Star Reporter
October 30, 2012

UAF Justice student Jeffery Thompson holds his credentials while sharing his experiences at the Democratic National Committee Convention Friday, Oct. 26 at the Wood Center Multi-level Lounge. Thompson was sent to the DNC on a grant program provided by the School Of Management. Cordero Reid/Sun Star

The Democrat and Republican National Conventions are among the most attended events in the United States. Millions watch the events on television, thousands attend in person and only a select few are given the rare opportunity to watch the happenings from the venue’s floor.

Hannah Harrison and Jeff Thompson are among UAF’s most politically knowledgeable and aware students, according to Hope Bichmeier, the program coordinator for UAF’s Leadership Center. Made possible by university funding, the students each attended a national political convention. Harrison attended the National Republican Convention and Thompson went to the Democratic National Convention.

On Friday Oct. 26, the two shared their experiences with the public in the multi-level lounge in the Wood Center.

Harrison, is an environment ethnology graduate student. She attended the RNC in Florida at the end of August. During her trip, she spent her first week attending several academic lectures and the second week attending the actual convention.

“Because it was the republican convention I thought I would spend the whole two weeks biting my tongue,” Harrison said.

Harrison found herself impressed with the organization of the convention and how well crafted and organized everything was.

“Nothing should happen at the convention that was unscripted,” Harrison said. “I was surprised that there were very few conflicts.”

Harrison had the opportunity to attend the convention for all four nights by being given credentials, also known as passes.

The most helpful piece of advice Harrison was given throughout the convention was, “Invite yourself to everything.” She took complete advantage of this by attending speeches by Condoleezza Rice, Ron Paul and Congressman Mickey Edwards.

“This was a $10,000 experience,” Harrison said.

Through UAF, Chancellor Rogers and the Washington Center for Internships, attending the conventions for Harrison and Thompson was an all expenses paid trip.

For Harrison, having funding was, a huge relief and really made a difference, she said. Harrison considered herself extremely fortunate that she didn’t have to worry about money during her two week experience.

“A lot of people took out loans to attend this seminar,” Thompson said.

Thompson attended the DNC in Charlotte, N. Car. At age 51, Thompson was the oldest university delegate there and is studying criminal justice at UAF.

Thompson believes that the young students attending the convention were “some of the most informed students about politics,” in the United States.

The DNC began on Sept. 4, so Thompson missed the first two weeks of fall semester.

As a delegate, Thompson was given access to many parts of the convention that were off limits to the public. Thompson was allowed to access areas without being patted down by the secret service or passing through metal detectors.

Additionally, many of Thompson’s credentials were available to him 24 hours a day, when most volunteers were only allowed to hold on to their passes for a matter of a few hours.

“It didn’t hurt to say I was from Alaska,” Thompson said, after attending the DNC. Thompson figured out that almost no one else was there was from Alaska, making him stand out from the crowd. “Just being Alaska brought a lot of attention to me.”

Thompson said that Alaska is mainly represented by older generations and that they’re looking for younger delegates.

“The younger generation is the one who will change politics,” Thompson said.

“Both Hannah and Jeff shined through,” said Bichmeier.

Bichmeier was one of the three panelists who chose UAF’s student representatives out of tens of applications. All UAF students were welcomed to apply for the program last spring.

Chancellor Rogers said, “Experiences like this are really worth it.Clearly what we saw here justified the selection of these individuals.”

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