Graduate Student Recalls DNC & Inauguration Experiences

Graduate Student Recalls DNC & Inauguration Experiences

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Jessica L. Finocchiaro
February 13, 2013

I always had a penchant for politics, but I wasn’t always interested in getting directly involved. Friendly debates, engaging with the media, and showing up on Election Day were enough.  My undergraduate courses were spread pretty evenly between English literature, American studies, and architecture.  People and their environment were what interested me.


My Road to the DNC and Inauguration


But the 2008 presidential campaign signaled to me that politics and public administration were going through some dramatic changes as we began to address our country’s challenges.  I began to see my varied studies as an advantage.


I was lucky enough to attend two seminars in The Washington Center’s Campaign 2012: Academic Seminar Series, including the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Seminar in Charlotte, NC and The Presidential Inauguration Seminar in Washington, D.C.  These seminars helped me define my beliefs about public service.


As I write this, it’s incredible to recall how I felt during the weeks I spent with The Washington Center (TWC).  Being a student participant in the democratic process is something that no research, biography, or traditional course can provide. At the DNC we met with the charismatic State Representative Tricia Cotham (D) in addition to U.S. Representative Melvin Watt (D-NC, 12th District), who described his experiences with Harvey Gantt, who I also met at the TWC/UNC Charlotte panel, “Why Charlotte in 2012?”


Fieldwork Placement


At the DNC, I enjoyed my fieldwork placement with Talk Radio News Service.  I was given press passes and asked to simply “find my story.” I interviewed Lee Saunders, President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).  I interviewed Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).  I covered both a Youth Caucus and Small Business Administration event.  I even got to have a personal moment with Nancy Pelosi as she snuck out through the back kitchen of a hotel as she rushed to her next appointment.


TWC speakers at the Inaugural Seminar and the DNC came from an impressive range of fields.  We met with politicians, professors, economists, producers, reporters, White House staff, Public Relations experts, editors, TV hosts and the list goes on! C-SPAN even covered our last Inaugural guest speaker Don Ritchie, United States Senate Historian.


Action-Packed Experience


While I am still impressed with the events and connections that TWC provides, I believe that the most vital gift that they provide is wedging you right in the middle of the action.  At the DNC we spent most of our stay a short walk away from the Time Warner Cable Arena, and during the Inauguration Seminar we were housed at the Residential and Academic Facility (RAF) at NoMa, which was close to Union Station.


You start to get familiar with the rush of being a part of history.  Hearing the roar of the audience after Bill Clinton’s speech at the DNC, or witnessing the 57th Presidential Inauguration as families around me proudly displayed their tickets—these are experiences that can’t be explained using just words.  The inspiration and perspective I’ve gained have strengthened my passion for public service, and I’m proud of the small part we played in American history.


Check out albums from the Inauguration Academic Seminar on our Flickr channel:


1. Inauguration Seminar: Day 1

2. Inauguration Seminar: Day 1 | Bus Tour

3. Inauguration Seminar: Day 2

4. Inauguration Seminar: Day 3

5. Inauguration Seminar: Day 4

6. Inauguration Seminar: Day 5

7. Inauguration Seminar: National Press Club

8. Inauguration Seminar: Day 6

9. Inauguration Seminar: Day of Service

10. Inauguration Seminar Site Visits


Jessica L. Finocchiaro is graduating this year with a Master of Public Administration, and a Master of Science of Political Science from Suffolk University in Boston, MA.  Jessica serves as the President of the Graduate Political Science Association and the Recruitment Chair for the MPA Student Association at her university.  She works for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and serves as a member of the board of directors for a local mental health nonprofit.

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