BY ASHLEY FLAWS
“Seventeen” magazine recently selected Drake University as one of 10 universities around the country to be featured in their “Cool Schools 2018” article in the March/April print issue of the magazine, available on newsstands today.
Drake, along with one other school, was chosen for its abundance of political opportunities. The magazine wrote of Drake, “No university will bring you closer to the Iowa caucuses. In 2016, students who worked on the Iowa Caucus Project helped organize campaign events and delivered behind-the-scenes journalism.”
Rachel Paine Caufield, associate professor of political science at Drake and director of the Iowa Caucus Project, said that 27 political events were held on Drake’s campus during the 2015 caucus cycle. Students had the opportunity to attend the CNN Town Hall and CBS Debate that were filmed at Drake and also got to ask presidential candidates questions on live television.
Students also worked on presidential campaigns and with political parties, sometimes taken on as paid interns by the television networks or campaigns.
Along with the variety of opportunities during the caucus cycle every four years at Drake, Caufield said Drake has an abundance of political events and opportunities every year.
“We get a ton of candidates coming through the semester before a caucus, but we also have amazing opportunities all the time, because if you’re even vaguely considering a run for the presidency, you want to spend as much time as possible in Iowa,” Caufield said. “It’s not just a caucus year; it’s a lot of national political figures come to Iowa whenever they can.”
Drake hosted former presidential candidate Martin O’Malley on campus last week to discuss environmental policies. Caufield estimated around 50 to 60 Drake students attended the event.
Kathleen Richardson, dean of Drake’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said that Drake also provides a lot of opportunities for journalism students who get to cover political happenings on campus or work with the various media outlets that come to Iowa during the caucus season. However, she, too, said that Drake provides year-round political opportunities to students outside of the caucus season.
“Even if the caucuses didn’t exist, this is a great place to be interested either in covering politics or being involved in campaigns because we’re the state capital,” Richardson said. “There are a lot of opportunities up at the legislature for students who are interested in working up there or working for government agencies.”
Josh Hughes, a junior law, politics and society major, is one student who has taken advantage of Drake’s proximity to the state Capitol.
Hughes started at Drake in the fall of 2015 when events surrounding the caucus were being held on campus, and he got a job right away working for a congressional candidate at the time. From there, he was able to secure an internship with the Capitol for the spring 2016 semester and has been working at the Capitol for the past two years.
He is currently a part-time student at Drake while he works as a paid legislative clerk for a state representative at the Capitol.
Hughes said he wouldn’t have been able to have all of these opportunities if he hadn’t come to Drake.
“The politics per capita can’t be beat anywhere at any other school in the country,” Hughes said. “For example, a school like George Washington University in Washington, D.C. or Georgetown or something like that has more politics. They also have fewer opportunities to get students involved, but Drake has as much politics, at least, and political opportunities and fewer students … The opportunities here are unlike any other in the country.”
Drake’s reputation as a hotspot for politics is one of the factors that attracted Hughes to the school. With “Seventeen”’s recent designation of Drake as a “cool school” for politics, Caufield hopes that more students will be attracted to Drake in the future, particularly the young female audience the magazine targets.
“I hope that there are a whole bunch of civically engaged, interested, dynamic, smart, curious young women across the country … who are looking at this and taking a look at Drake and saying, ‘That might be a place that would be really good for me.’ And I think it would be really good for them,” Caufield said.
While “Seventeen”’s description of Drake may attract prospective students in the future, current Drake students already know how special Drake is.
“It’s clear, far and above the rest when you consider where politics lives,” Hughes said. “It lives in Iowa, and in Iowa, it lives at Drake.”