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Witnessing Political History

UMass Lowell student Adeja Crearer standing in front of video camera
Adeja Crearer '17 is an English major with a journalism concentration and a digital media minor.

By Katharine Webster

On the second night of the Democratic National Convention, Adeja Crearer ’17 was heading out to the deserted media tents to edit footage for Agence-France Presse TV when a crowd of disappointed delegates for Sen. Bernie Sanders rushed out of the Wells Fargo Center chanting “Bernie! Bernie!” They took over a media tent and she went in with them—just as police moved to block the exits.

“So I’m trapped inside,” she says. “I was in shock for one minute and then I realized, you can’t live it, you have to start working.”

She snapped into action, using her phone to take photos and record interviews with the protesting delegates. After a while, she was able to go to the AFP-TV tent, grab a camera and shoot some video. She edited it all together for an exclusive story. That was a thrill for the aspiring journalist.

“That was real. It was then that I knew—I love that feeling. It was a rush of adrenaline,” says Crearer, an English major with a journalism concentration and a digital media minor from Piscataway, N.J.

David Todisco takes a selfie with Hillary Clinton, wearing a t-shirt he made from a previous selfie with the candidate Photo by David Todisco
David Todisco takes a selfie with Hillary Clinton, wearing a T-shirt he made from a previous selfie.
Crearer was one of five students who went to either the Democratic or Republican convention in July through the university’s partnership with The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. The students earned six credits for the two-week program, supported by scholarships from the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. The first week, the students attended seminars with political and security experts. The second week, they interned, mostly for media organizations.

Assistant Dean Francis Talty says the convention program, which also was offered in 2008 and 2012, gives students a crash course in party politics. “For students interested in the political experience, this is Woodstock,” says Talty, who manages the Washington Center partnership and serves as an academic seminar leader. “It’s total immersion.” Political science major and Hillary Clinton volunteer David Todisco ’19 says it was gratifying to witness Clinton make history as the first woman nominated by a major party.

“You knew it was coming, but to see it finally happen and Bernie turn over his delegates—it was a very satisfying moment,” he says. “I had the chills so many times from all the inspiring speeches. And that’s what I crave: inspiration in American politics.”

Tyler Farley, left, and members of the "Electoral Politics" class met Marco Rubio at a town hall in Salem, N.H. Photo by Tyler Farley
Tyler Farley, left, poses with other students and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at a campaign event in Salem, N.H.
He says the convention, where he interned for NBC news, inspired him to run for local political office someday. He’s already gaining plenty of political experience: first as an intern for a state representative, then as a Clinton volunteer and most recently as a summer intern for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Tyler Farley ’18 worked as a runner for CNN at the Republican convention in Cleveland from 3 p.m. until lights out each night. For hours before his shift each day, he interviewed delegates for a research project with Asst. Prof. Morgan Marietta on the issues animating Donald Trump’s supporters. Farley, an Honors College student double-majoring in political science and economics, says he found the convention fascinating.

“It was a fun, crazy week. It was what you would expect it to be with Trump as the nominee; there was controversy every night, always something dramatic, and it was exciting to be there—to be part of the show.”