Picture of the Republican National Convention

Cleveland 2016: Faculty help students get up-close understanding of politics at RNC

As a former reporter, Jim Sheeler knows the excitement of covering presidential politics. So, as one of the largest events of the year comes to Cleveland in July, Sheeler wants to make sure his students get a first-hand look at all of the action.

Sheeler’s students will cover the Republican National Convention—taking place July 18-21—as fully credentialed journalists, giving them an up-close look at the event and all the stories that will arise from it.

Sheeler, the Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism and Media Writing, is among a number of faculty members who will use the RNC as a teaching tool.

Collaborating with a colleague from Penn State University, Sheeler will organize student coverage for McClatchy Co., which operates 29 daily newspapers in 14 states. Seven CWRU students and a group of seven from his colleague’s university will report on and seek out stories during the event.

“Covering a national convention is a massive task, even for professional reporters,” Sheeler said. “It’s also a huge learning opportunity, especially with this convention. It’s going to be different than any of the others.”

Sheeler hopes his students will look beyond the big names to capture stories that some of the major media outlets might miss. As students and members of the Cleveland community, Sheeler believes the students will be able to bring distinct perspectives to the convention coverage.

Karen Beckwith, the Flora Stone Mather Professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, also will work with a colleague from Penn State, bringing together students from each of the institutions to work with one another and conduct research.

To give students a deeper understanding of what happens at conventions, she will offer a one-time-only course: POSC 389, The Republican National Convention: Cleveland 2016, which is offered July 5-22 (students can enroll through July 1).

Looking to tap into the wealth of data that will be just down the road, CWRU students will conduct interviews with delegates from Ohio and Pennsylvania on the convention floor. Meanwhile, the Penn State students will survey protestors outside the convention.

“One of the nice things about the convention is that it offers an opportunity to understand the interaction between citizen participation and the political party nomination process,” said Beckwith, who also is serving on the academic subcommittee of the university’s RNC Launch Committee and helping develop some programming surrounding the convention.

But the convention also will offer the chance to gain an understanding of the broad impact American politics have on the world.

To address that, Beckwith is providing a workshop for students in Weatherhead School of Management’s Global MBA program to help them get a better grasp on what will be going on in Cleveland this summer.

The students, most of whom are international students, will get to witness American politics and their impact on global commerce up close.

The program brings together a cohort of about 50 students from CWRU, Tongji University’s School of Economics and Management in Shanghai and Xavier Labour Relations Institute in Jamshedpur, India. The students spend a semester at each of the universities and are studying in Cleveland this summer.

Simon Peck, associate dean for MBA programs and associate professor of design and innovation, explained that the goal of the program is to help students gain an understanding of how global business works, especially the economies in the United States, China and India.

“There’s a lot of corporate interest around the world in the outcome of the election,” he said. “We’re going to be examining why it matters so much.”

In many ways, the convention also will offer the prospect of putting Case Western Reserve in the national spotlight—whether through events hosted on campus or by faculty providing expert analysis.

“We’re not just hoping to go down to the RNC to take a look—we’re hoping people from the RNC will come to our campus to take a look at us as well,” Beckwith said. “We have some beautiful new buildings on campus, a world-class faculty and a lot of interesting things going on.”

Learn more about the events and upcoming opportunities relating to the RNC at case.edu/rnc/.