Only in New Hampshire
To study politics, UNH students just have to step outside.

Opportune moment: Freshmen Kaitlyn Smith, left, and Tegan Schroeder pose with Edwards.

For January term this year, adventurous students at Hartwick College in upstate New York could travel to the Costa Rican rainforest in search of poison dart frogs--or to the streets of New Hampshire for sightings of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. Harvard and Hofstra sent expeditions to the state in the fall. UNH students, on the other hand, had only to step out the door to observe presidential candidates in their natural habitat.

These encounters could sometimes occur at inopportune moments. Freshman Tegan Schroeder, for instance, would really rather not have bumped into Sen. John Edwards just outside Hetzel Hall one day in October. "I was coming back from the gym, all sweaty," she explains, "and I didn't want to be seen by anyone."

Normally, Schroeder and her friend Kaitlyn Smith are more than happy to meet presidential candidates, and a couple of weeks later they shook hands with Edwards in a small cafˇ in Dover, N.H., as a camera from "60 Minutes" looked on and a fuzzy boom mike loomed overhead. They heard Edwards speak about education and respond to the concerns of citizens, including a woman whose medicine costs $4,000 a month. But they also got something that TV viewers don't get: an up-close look at a man who might some day occupy the White House.

"Did you notice he was wearing a Timex digital watch?" Smith asked Schroeder on the way back to campus. "It made him seem almost. . . humble." The two students, a Republican and a right-leaning independent, may not have agreed with his positions, but they were struck by the wealthy trial lawyer's ability to connect with everyday people.

Now at the end of her first semester in political science, Smith has met most of the nine Democratic candidates more than once and had her picture taken with five of them. She worked on retired General Wesley Clark's campaign and helped out in his "rapid response" room during the nationally televised Democratic presidential primary debate held at UNH in December. "I also ran into a woman who was running a Draft Gore campaign when I was getting my oil changed," she reports. "But I don't think that counts."

Whether it's just meeting a candidate in the MUB or working on a primary campaign, UNH students have had unparalleled opportunities over the years to participate in the process of selecting a president. This year for the first time they also had the opportunity to take a team-taught class on the primary, where guest speakers included newspaper and television reporters, fund-raisers, an ethics expert, campaign managers and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Over the semester, each student analyzed one campaign and participated in a group presentation critiqued by a regional coordinator for that campaign.

Now more than ever, UNH students with an interest in political science and public service can learn from the quadrennial presidential frenzy, and some of them have discovered a whole new career path.

"There's no other state where you can do this," says Smith. "We might as well take advantage."

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