RNC Faculty Leader Witnesses True Student Transformation

RNC Faculty Leader Witnesses True Student Transformation

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Susan Hoerbelt
September 27, 2012

“OMG”: the three letters that began many tweets during the Campaign 2012 seminar. Each day our students were introduced to people and ideas that inspired them in new ways. I expected to help them integrate all they were learning into a deeper understanding of politics and the political process. What I did not anticipate was the degree to which the students would have to be coached into setting aside their awe. On more than one occasion I felt like the proverbial pail of cold water tempering their enthusiasm. Within a few days they were accustomed to the wonderful speakers and with the start of their fieldwork, the “OMG” tweets began again as they met, and were photographed with, well-known political figureheads and celebrities. As a faculty leader, I must say that during the second week it was easier to guide their focus back to academics. I believe the reason was a change in perspective that I had not anticipated.


Personal Growth in Students


The greatest change I witnessed in my students was their shift from students of politics to political stakeholders. Certainly there were many signs of intellectual growth: a deeper understanding of the political process, a greater capacity to listen and discuss views different from their own, and a richer appreciation for those who serve in public office. But nothing was as evident as their realization that they are an integral part of and could influence the political process.


Professional Transformation


Perhaps the clearest example was one of our students who emigrated from South Korea a few years ago with his family and was less informed about U.S. political history.  He is an art major and prior to the Campaign 2012 seminar, saw himself as a rather distant observer of contemporary politics. During the first week of the seminar one of the speakers was Aaron Brown, former CNN commentator, who immediately made an impression on this student. The two of them had several personal conversations and later in the first week, Mr. Brown led a discussion in which he used a number of television advertisements. The transformation was stunning. During the course of Mr. Brown’s presentation this bright and talented student became aware of the potential influence of political cartooning. Now, rather than a vague idea of majoring in art with an undetermined objective, he saw a purpose in his education and a use for his artistic and intellectual talents by influencing the political conversation with his drawings. Time will tell how this experience manifests, but I suspect the inspiration drawn from the Campaign 2012 experience will prove to be pivotal in his future.


New Feeling of Empowerment


I expected that all of the students to grow intellectually from the Campaign 2012 experience. I also anticipated they would be more convinced of the value of political participation. However, the most rewarding transformation in all of the students was the growth in their feeling of empowerment. Now that the seminar has concluded, we are back in the routine of the fall semester. I am teaching a course in political sociology. I developed the syllabus for the course over the summer, before the Campaign 2012 seminar began. After each seminar session I edited the syllabus, adjusting and revising, as my vision of the course was enriched.  The greatest impact of Campaign 2012 on me is a commitment to affect a similar transformation in all of my students.


View photos of the DNC and RNC on our Flickr channel:


1. Republican National Convention (RNC) Check-In and Orientation

2. Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Welcome Reception

3. RNC Faculty Orientation

4. RNC Programming

5. RNC Game Day Event at Game Time Tampa

6. RNC Programming: Part 2

7. RNC Seminar Participants Tour the Official Convention Floor

8. First Day of the RNC

9. RNC: Day 2

10. RNC: Day 3

11. RNC: Day 4

12. Around-The-Clock at the RNC

13. DNC Campaign 2012 Seminar Kicks Off

14. DNC Programming

15. DNC Programming: Part 2

16. Why Charlotte in 2012?

17. V.I.P. Tour of the Time Warner Cable Arena

18. Around-The-Clock at the DNC


Susan Hoerbelt is a professor of sociology at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida. She teaches traditional classes as well as several online courses including Introduction to Sociology, Marriage and Family and Social Problems and several honors courses, which offer the opportunity to investigate social issues in greater depth. Dr. Hoerbelt received her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Florida and has been at HCC for 21 years.

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