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Students Intern and Learn at GOP and Dem Conventions

Supported by Scholarships, Students Witness History in the Making

Tyler Farley, left, and members of the Photo by Tyler Farley
Tyler Farley, left, poses with other students and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at a campaign event in Salem, N.H.

07/21/2016
By Katharine Webster

Five students are interning at the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions this month, thanks to the university’s partnership with The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars.

The university also sent students to the conventions in 2008 and 2012, says Francis Talty, assistant dean of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. But this year’s conventions, with large factions in both parties unhappy with their presumptive nominees, are the most contentious in recent memory.

“For students who are interested in the political experience, this is Woodstock,” says Talty, who manages the Washington Center partnership. “It’s total immersion in national politics. It’s also star-studded.”

The Washington Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that offers study abroad-type experiences, mostly in the nation’s capital, teaching college students about politics and developing their leadership skills through seminars and internships with government agencies, nonprofits and corporations. 

Tyler Farley, an Honors College junior from Taunton double-majoring in political science and economics, is interning for CNN at the GOP convention in Cleveland. He and the other students are also taking seminars from professors and political experts for credit.

“You get to witness history firsthand – that, and make some good contacts. I see it as a good opportunity to meet really important people in the Republican Party, plus other students from across the country who are as passionate as I am about politics,” says Farley, who aims for a political career like that of UMass President Marty Meehan, who served 14 years in Congress.

Farley, a true political junkie, took Meehan’s class on Congress, co-taught by adjunct faculty member Patricia Talty, his freshman year. This past spring, Farley also took Asst. Prof. Morgan Marietta’s “Electoral Politics” class, offered once every four years in the lead-up to the presidential election.
Video by Alfonso Velasquez
Asst. Prof. Morgan Marietta's class on "Electoral Politics" included optional field trips to campaign events.

Marietta and his students took advantage of Lowell’s proximity to New Hampshire and its first-in-the-nation presidential primaries to attend candidate events, including a “town hall” in Salem, N.H., held by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Farley also volunteered for Rubio’s campaign.

David Todisco, a rising sophomore political science major, also took full advantage of New Hampshire’s political scene. He had just graduated from high school in Medford and was interning for the West Medford state representative when he attended a Hillary Clinton rally in Dover, N.H., wearing a T-shirt for the college he would attend in the fall of 2015: the University of New Hampshire. He was hanging around after the main event when the candidate spotted him and came over to chat.

“She asked, ‘You go to UNH? How’d you like to work on the campaign?’” Todisco says. “And how do you say no to Hillary Clinton?”

Canvassing for Clinton wasn’t easy: Most UNH students preferred Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But Todisco, who transferred to UMass Lowell in the spring, says it was great experience and helped him land a summer internship with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was being vetted as a possible Clinton running mate. 
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 with the Democratic presidential candidate.

Todisco also met Chuck Todd and his team from NBC’s “Meet the Press” at a campaign event – and leveraged that connection to land an NBC internship during the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

“My dream job would be working for NBC,” he says. “I love production and I did a lot of theater and newspaper stuff in high school. But I also love politics, so bringing those two together and working for a show like ‘Meet the Press’ would be really cool.” 

Three other students are going to the Democratic convention, too: Adeja Crearer, Sarah Chapman and Marcus Peterson. Talty will serve as a faculty leader at the Democratic convention; in that role, he alternates party conventions every four years.

Crearer ‘17, an English major from Piscataway, N.J., with a journalism concentration and minors in political science and digital media, will be interning with Agence France-Presse TV, reporting stories on deadline.

“It will be interesting to see how the Democratic convention plays out,” says Crearer. “It should be a show for sure.”

None of it would have been possible without generous scholarships from the office of FAHSS Dean Luis Falcón, all three students say.

“I really appreciate the dean’s support,” Farley says.