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by Ian Ross

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.–  Political Science students will stage the 2019 Westminster College Mock Convention this semester on Nov. 12 and 13.   The college has held the Convention every four years since 1936, except for 1944 due to World War Two. The event is the second oldest of its kind in the nation and is cherished by faculty and alumni alike. But before any of the fun can begin, a group of Westminster students and their adviser must put it all together.

Last spring, 20 undergrads, some of whom are enrolled in a specific course focused on running the convention, joined their adviser/instructor began planning the 2019 Democratic Mock Convention.  The Convention focuses on the party that is out of power in the White House.  Organizers have mapped out the format for the event and locked in a keynote speaker, former Maryland Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley.  

 

Convention Committee Secretary Kaylee Brosius said selecting and scheduling a keynote speaker was a major accomplishment last semester. According to Brosius, O’Malley should be very popular with Democrats in attendance. 

But the Mock Convention isn’t about choosing a party or promoting a political agenda.  It’s a role-playing experience engaging students to learn about the process of American political conventions and the nomination of presidential candidates.  The tradition reaches out to all members of the student body and faculty to become political animals and act out what could happen before the real conventions in 2020.

Brosius stressed that there is still much more that needs to be done.

Convention Committee faculty adviser Dr. James Rhoads has been involved with the Mock Convention since 1996. He said that the Committee faces a challenge in the fall.

“Because this happens every four years, there are very few students who were around for the last time. So the biggest challenge is educating students about what is going on. About why they should be apart of it. About why this has been an important tradition at the college for nearly 100 years.”

Getting Students to the convention posed a challenge for the committee in recent years. The number of students in attendance has gone down, partly due to today’s political climate. Dr. Rhoads stressed the importance the convention has had on the student experience.

“It’s no cost, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s part of something that every Westminster alum, virtually every living Westminster alum has been a part of.”

Every person on the committee has to take on this challenge, but one person who will face it the most is Campaign Manager Jackson Gastmeyer. He will  run one of the candidate’s campaign and getting students to come to support them. He says that the committee has a plan for getting more students to the convention.

“This school is small enough that you know almost everybody. So, simply just talking to them, word of mouth, putting posters up around campus, advertisements on Westminster Cable and Titan Radio, or through email, on the website anything. So we’re going to be across the board advertising this event.”

Jackson also said that making students feel like they are a part of something will be essential.

“It is a mock convention, but it is still an opportunity to get involved in politics and just converse about these things.”

No one knows how the convention will turn out. It’s always a learning experience for a new generation of students, but it’s a tradition with a long legacy that is uniquely Westminster. Until the next Mock Convention rolls around in the fall. Organizers \will continue working to keep this tradition alive.

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