While millions watched last week's Democratic National Convention from the comfort of their homes, Chloe McGrath '14 of Adams, Mass., was hard at work in the Charlotte, N.C., arena as part of The Washington Center's academic seminar, Campaign 2012: The Democratic National Convention.
According to Dr. Robert Bence, MCLA professor of political science and public policy, "She met numerous delegates from across the nation and connected with student activists, which will aid in her understanding how college students can be more involved in the political and policy processes."
The first MCLA student to attend this seminar, McGrath's experience is invaluable, Bence said, as she combines her extensive academic knowledge with "real world" American political experience.
"When the opportunity came for me to participate in the DNC and experience the democratic process hands on, I felt it was the next step for me as a student, as well as a citizen," McGrath said. "This experience has opened my eyes to an outside political world that exists, that brings concepts to life. It was one of the most rewarding academic and civic experiences I have had.
"I learned so much from speakers, lectures and group discussions on site that were especially insightful. I was able to see Charlotte transform before my eyes in preparation for the convention, and spoke to city natives about their thoughts and feelings about the DNC. The community there was so involved, which is a side that is not often mentioned in text books.
"Politics is constantly changing and evolving. There is never a dull moment, and so much can happen in such little time. The DNC in Charlotte was by far the most exciting event I have ever been to. I could feel the energy radiate around me," she explained. "Being part of the political process like that was a dream, and made me proud to be a citizen present in a little piece of history."
McGrath started out her two-week-long experience by attending panels and speeches. She also participated in a student discussion group.
"The second week consisted of field work placement, in which each student worked at a various interest group, media outlet or host committee, along with other areas," she continued. At CNN, McGrath not only ran errands; she witnessed key filming in Time Warner Cable's arena suites and at CNN Grill. "I was in rehearsals most days for hours at a time, during which I had to test the audio equipment and read from the teleprompter."
While doing fieldwork at CNN, McGrath met media personalities including Wolf Blitzer, Soledad O'Brien and Anderson Cooper, as well as state legislators, such as Tricia Cotham of North Carolina and Alan Williams of Florida.
McGrath said the experience validated her desire to work in politics. A comment by former Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Harvey Gantt had particularly impact. He told students that politics is not about fame or power. It's about serving others and doing the best you can for them.
"I realized that he is completely right," McGrath said. "I want to be a policy analyst because I want to help people; I want to improve policies that improve the lives of others. This experience in Charlotte made me even more motivated to do that."