Instead of textbooks or newspapers, students can learn about the inner workings of presidential campaigns straight from the horse’s mouth.
POLISCI 72: “Policy, Politics, and the Presidency” allows students to closely examine the campaign process following one of, arguably, the most colorful election cycles in recent history. Offered this winter quarter, the class covers different aspects of a presidential campaign by inviting guest speakers who have held senior roles in multiple Democrat and Republican races, including the most recent one.
“It’s rare that students will have the opportunity to interact with some of the figures in politics that we’re going to have during the quarter,” course instructor Lanhee Chen said.
And it’s not just the guests who have experience on the campaign trail. The course is taught by lecturers and professors with extensive campaign experience.
A David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Chen served as the policy advisor for the Romney-Ryan campaign. Lecturer Benjamin Ginsberg served as counsel on the Bush-Cheney campaigns and the Romney-Ryan campaign.
Professor, by courtesy, of political science Nathaniel Persily served as the senior research director for a bipartisan commission created by former president Barack Obama to address long lines and other problems from the 2012 election. Likewise, professor of political science Bruce Cain has devoted his career to policy research and has won multiple awards for his work.
Chen and Ginsberg took their experiences on the campaign trail and created a course about the presidential campaign process for the first time in winter of 2015. The course served as a reflection of their experiences in the 2012 election and as an early, pre-primary analysis of the 2016 election.
“The idea for the course came from Ben and me — having collaborated closely together on the Romney campaign,” Chen said. “We thought it would be great to introduce a course at Stanford that would really give students a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to serve at the senior levels of a presidential campaign.”
Seeing the complexities of the 2016 election, the team that taught the class in 2015 thought that there would be widespread student interest in learning about the campaign process and meeting with experts from both campaigns and the media.
“I could sit in any POLISCI class and analyze Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but no matter what the class and [what] I come up with, it’s an outsider’s perspective,” said Madison Perez ’20, a prospective political science and psychology major. “Hearing from the person who ran the campaign provides insight into the process that no one else could give me.”
During the first class session, students heard from Robby Mook, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This Wednesday, students will hear from Jason Miller, communications director for the Donald Trump campaign and Kristina Schake, deputy communications director for the Clinton campaign.
Throughout the course, students will continue to hear from campaign executives along with media experts from print and broadcast news stations.
“When I saw that there would be several head campaign leaders attending Stanford for this class, I had to sign up,” Perez said. “I followed the entire 2016 election closely, but getting to hear what was going on through the campaign director’s head while everything was happening is something most people will never get to do.”
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