From September to January, it was not uncommon for students to see a presidential candidate or CNN reporter while walking to class. Drake is now one of the most important political hubs in the nation.
Des Moines is the capital of Iowa. It is also the largest media market in the state.
“When you combine the government with the media, it makes for people interested in government and politics from both a news perspective, school of journalism stuff or politics perspective. It makes this a good place,” said Arthur Sanders, an Ellis and Nelle Levitt Distinguished Professor of Politics.
With each presidential election cycle comes the chance for students to participate in the Iowa caucuses.
“(For) the six months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, this is the center of American politics,” Sanders said.
For students, this means the opportunity to work for campaigns, intern for major news networks, attend debates and make connections that can lead to jobs.
Junior political science and English double major Jonathan Lueth said that Drake played a large part in his ability to work on the leadership team for two political campaigns this election cycle.
“I really believe that, had I not been at Drake, I wouldn’t have had the political opportunities that I’ve had,” Lueth said.
Drake has been expanding these opportunities in recent years.
In 2008, the Iowa Caucus Project was formed, creating opportunities for visiting candidates. In 2012, the Iowa Caucus Project invited political candidates to campus. The 2016 campaign brought with it the creation of the Political Visitor Team, a group of four people who meet regularly and ensure events run smoothly.
The organization brought by this team has allowed students the opportunity to attend three nationally televised debates or forums, a speech by one of nearly all of the candidates from either party or events like the mock caucus.
The caucuses are not the only way Drake students can be involved in politics.
Lueth said he has worked on a senatorial campaign and on the Republican National Committee victory program, while being the current Arts and Sciences academic student senator and working as a campaign manager in the most recent executive elections at Drake.
Other students were able to work as interns for companies including CNN, CBS, Bloomberg, Fusion, PBS and Yahoo News.
Rachel Paine Caufield, an associate politics professor and head of the Iowa Caucus Project and Political Visitor Team, said this election cycle has allowed students to recognize themselves as professionals and citizens.
“Politics is not a show,” Caufield said. “Politics is not about fancy people that are far away from you. Politics is about you.”