It’s two years out from a presidential election, but in Lakeland, campaigns for Congress, the state legislature, the governorship and several other local offices are well under way. Many of these campaigns feature a unique Florida Southern contribution—student volunteers.

Several local campaigns require volunteer help, which undergraduates are willing and happy to supply. These students perform any number of traditional duties, such as canvassing neighborhoods and phone banking – but they also use their own knowledge and creativity to bring life to the Lakeland campaign trail.

Dr. Bruce Anderson, a professor of political science at FSC, teaches a course this semester called Campaigns & Elections, which requires the students taking it to intern on a local campaign.

“They [students] gain practical, applied experience and they put their experiences from the classroom to work,” Dr. Anderson said.

[pullquote]“We have students running and working on the Dennis Ross, Alan Cohn and Colleen Burton campaigns.”[/pullquote]

The roles these students play are integral to these and other campaigns. They take on many types of duties. Working an average of fifteen hours a week outside of class, these students do anything and everything from manning the phone lines to working events.

Keifer Exum, a senior working on the Cohn for Congress campaign, believes in the idea that “Decisions are made by those who show up. It’s important for students to be involved in politics,” Exum said.

Brianna Turbeville, a senior working on the Colleen Burton state House of Representatives campaign, thinks that working on a political campaign is “An excellent opportunity for students, political science [majors] or not. Regardless of party, it’s great to be involved,” Turbeville said.

By volunteering on a political campaign, students can gain real world work experience and network with their future leaders. Plus it looks fabulous on a resume.

“It’s not just about working,” Jon Colmenares, campaign manager of the Alan Cohn campaign said. “It’s about getting involved early. A lot of elected officials take the younger generation for granted, but they’re a huge voting bloc. They [students] really need to get involved early to make sure their voices are being heard.”

“We have about 45 students working on campaigns [this season],” Dr. Anderson said. “It’s a major aspect of what we [the political science department] do. We train winners.”