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A Class Act: Students experience application of elections in life, class

Nov. 3, 2010

By Sara Tirrito
Staff Writer

Classroom learning became real-world learning Tuesday night for Dr. Dave Bridge's campaigns and elections class, which met at his apartment to discuss and analyze the national elections as they occurred.

"It's a unique opportunity to combine what we're learning with what's actually happening as it is happening," Bridge, assistant professor of political science, said. "The students feel like they have a stake in the election, and how cool is it that they can combine a campaigns and elections class with a national election?"

Together the class discussed topics ranging from the effect Tuesday's elections could have on the 2012 presidential elections to what enabled the Republicans to overtake the House.

One member of the class, Austin junior Jennifer Cook, said being able to debate with other students as the numbers came in made the elections more real.

"We all are very dynamic in our points of view and our political views, so having that chance to watch the results coming in and getting the chance to debate makes it more realistic of what's going on in our actual government rather than just watching numbers pop up on the bottom of your screen," Cook said. "We're being able to debate our realistic, dynamic points of view while it's happening."

Moyock, N.C., senior Ashley Morris said the experience allowed her to learn more not only about the factual aspects of the elections, but also about her classmates' opinions.

"I think it's a lot better than sitting in a classroom and looking at a PowerPoint lecture. It's actually engaging in discussion and learning what you believe, understanding how the election process works and why this election is so crucial to the presidential elections," Morris said. "Being able to hear different viewpoints and find out people's political stances is interesting to me, and that's not necessarily something you could learn by sitting in a classroom and listening to your professor talk."

The class covers various aspects of campaigns and elections, such as how the U.S. runs elections, why America has certain kinds of elections, how congressmen and women are elected, what determines a person's vote, and various extra-constitutional institutions such as media, interest groups and political parties.

"It gets at the root of who we are as Americans and what we hold dear," Bridge said. "It develops our own personal sense of democracy and our roles and duties to the constitution and to the country."

Bridge said he hopes that by observing and discussing the elections in real-time, his students will be able to see how their classroom learning applies to real-world politics.

"I hope that they can make the connections between their college experience and the American political experience," Bridge said. "I think there are things we can't predict in academia, but for the most part I think that what we've learned in class generally applies. That's why I want to discuss it as it's happening."