The bus pulled out at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, headed for the biggest party these Xavier students had ever attended. By evening, all 40 students—along with professors, news reporters and Cincinnati political tag-alongs—arrived in Des Moines, Iowa, during the heat of the highly contested Iowa political primary.
Pumped by their chance to see preparations for the Iowa caucuses—and all the candidates—up close, the political science students also made it personal by putting in 15 to 20 volunteer hours each through the weekend at the offices of the presidential campaign of his or her choice.
The work was basic and involved mostly phoning Iowans likely to attend the upcoming caucuses in January. But the experience gained was unlike anything out of a textbook, says political science professor Gene Beaupré, who organized the trip.
“They saw a kind of retail politics not practiced anywhere else in this country,” Beaupre says. “They were so much a part of the process—they met the candidates, they were close to the people running the campaigns. It’s a kind of closeness that is unforgettable.”