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Expert: College political organizations help students' careers

BY MELISSA DAWKINS | OCTOBER 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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A small group of focused students huddled together, brainstorming ways to reach students with information about Iowa caucus candidate Ron Paul on Tuesday evening.

"We've certainly got a strong student organization already," said Drew Hjelm, the vice president of UI Youth for Ron Paul. "We've already [had] a lot of volunteers to help with the Ron Paul event."

Experts say college students are ideal candidates for working in political campaigns.

"Campaigns like college students because they have the flexible schedules, so they can make the phone calls and do the legwork," said Tim Hagle, a UI associate professor of political science.

UI senior Nathan Fiala, the University Democrats' president, said he has gained a lot of experience through political organizations outside campus as well.

He said he has worked in both Congressional and presidential campaigns. Currently, his organization meets with members of Obama for America to combine efforts.

Fiala said his work has helped him make a lot of connections in the political sphere.

Hagle agreed this involvement in political campaigns can mean more career-path options following graduation.

"Sometimes, they can go on to get jobs in government," he said. "I've had students work in Commerce, and Justice, and in the White House, and a number of federal agencies."

The importance of youth campus campaigns cannot be discounted, he said. Campaigns often see the youth vote as a good opportunity to gain support.

"If a campaign can draw in the youth vote, that's always a plus to get those folks energized," Hagle said. "If it's a student saying, 'Support this candidate,' subconsciously, you may think that they are interested in the same kinds of issues they are."

At present, two UI student organizations are specifically devoted to a "getting out the vote" for their presidential candidates.

Youth for Ron Paul at the University of Iowa and Students for Barrack Obama are both seeking to raise the youth vote for their respective candidates.

"There are a lot of students who are Democrats, but they're so busy, so we go to them …" Fiala said. "We're using the caucuses as an organization tool. We're using a get-out-the-caucus campaign. We're getting them informed about the campaign."

On the other side of the political spectrum, Youth for Ron Paul members hope to see "a change to the status quo."

Hagle said that while young people have traditionally had low turnout, student political organizations have shown potential to increase student involvement.

"They certainly have a good mobilization record," he said. "As long as [the students] are making those calls, you have a better chance of maintaining that enthusiasm."

At their Tuesday meeting, Youth for Ron Paul members came up with ideas to better engage potential voters that included fliers, barbecues, and more events similar to previous ones.

Fiala said an upcoming event is in the planning stages for the UI in conjunction with Obama for America.

He also said he encourages others to become involved politically on campus.

"If students want to get involved in a political campaign, it can only help them," he said. "While you're campaigning, you meet a lot of people. Either way, you learn interpersonal skills."


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