Sure, the event provided free pizza and ample space for viewing the results — a large projection screen featured one major TV network’s coverage and two corners of the Hahn University Center’s Forum rooms had a TV and perspectives from additional networks — but it all paled in comparison to one’s access to another very rich resource: USD students.
Michael Pogrebinsky, Katie Hoekman, Alexa Banker and Will Plimpton were among the students from Political Science Associate Professor Casey Dominguez’s Campaigns and Elections course sitting at a long table, armed with laptops, access to election results for individual states and with a specific assignment.
“We’re working on predicting which way the presidential election will go for each state, using data from the 2008 and 2004 elections and certain counties to determine how things could swing,” said Pogrebinsky, a junior political science major and minors in history and economics. He followed one of the seven swing states, Colorado, and said that he was monitoring difference-maker Arapahoe County’s voter habits closely. “I really like doing this because it allows me to apply what I’m learning in class.”
Dominguez has a true passion for political science research and USD student involvement in the election. This was again evidenced by her organizing on-campus presidential debate viewing parties and a nonpartisan look at California’s ballot propositions event. Tuesday night, she had every reason to be proud of her students.
“Elections are absolutely essential to representative democracy,” her Political Science 314 syllabi states. “They are the means by which citizens empower elected officials to speak on their behalf and hold them accountable for their actions in public office. The goal of this class is to help you become a more informed consumer of campaign information, and a more sophisticated analyst of electoral politics.”
Consider that goal accomplished. Hoekman, a junior political science major, and Banker, a sophomore history major, both said Dominguez’s class made them much more politically aware.
“Before I took this class, I would have had no clue about [examining specific counties to determine how the entire state votes],” said Banker, who followed New Hampshire. “I do see it now and I feel that I’m much more informed. I thought it was an excellent project; it makes everything very real and immediately applicable.”
“The anxiety that’s involved makes it really exciting,” said Hoekman. “I thought it was interesting to learn which parts of the country have the most influence and I learned more about the swing states. I think some young voters might not know as much about that.”
Plimpton, a junior political science major from New York, monitored a couple of different states, including Ohio, a traditional swing state. Plimpton (pictured, left) brought up the subject of absentee ballots still needing to be counted two weeks out. He said he appreciated the knowledge gained in Dominguez’s course about topics such as the Electoral College.
“I was interested to learn that Maine and Nebraska are the only states in the nation who use a different way of distributing their electoral votes,” he said, referring to the Congressional District Method, which is different than the winner-takes-all method of the other states.
Another interesting and educational point on Tuesday was having freshmen students from USD’s Sustainability Living-Learning Community (LLC) showcase research posters about public lands, climate change and offshore oil drilling.
Two students, Joel Brodfuehrer and Jordyn Osenbaugh (pictured together, at right) presented on public lands. They both felt that a strong case by either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney had not been sufficiently addressed to their liking through the campaign.
The poster that Osenbaugh and Brodfuehrer presented offered a fuller perspective, including a look at social movements in Montana, Hawaii and Colorado; political party stances, interest groups and public opinion; and an open plea to the presidential candidates to consider selling off some public lands to help the economy to create jobs and put more money into education. They also felt that states should have more involvement on public lands issues.
Nonetheless, having USD students tackling issues of political importance and increasing their own and others’ intellectual curiosity at Tuesday’s “party” was something to behold.
“I love seeing everyone, especially those who are participating, because they want to be here and find out what happens,” Pogrebinsky said.
— Ryan T. Blystone