As we are quickly approaching the big day, we asked Honors students Alex Minore and Kevin Sun about their experiences working on a local campaign—for former Honors student and Truman scholar Bryan Townsend.
KS: I did A LOT of canvassing (going to our targeted voters doors) and doorknocking with Bryan himself. My main responsibility was coordinating Get-out-the-vote or GOTV on primary day which was back on Sept. 11. I made the schedules of 50+ volunteers for that day. People had to be assigned to all the polling places as challengers and I had to coordinate when other volunteers could come pick up their voter lists/relieve them. The two weeks leading up to primary day I probably worked anywhere between 4-10 hours a day.
AM: I am an adviser when it comes to campaign strategy. Most of the time on the campaign I am knocking on doors and meeting voters.
KS: It may be that I am from around the Newark-area so I feel that I have more at stake, but a lot of people do not realize how much local government e.g. state representatives/senators have an effect over their lives. Of course it is important to be informed of who you are voting for at a state or federal level but your state-representative or senator is someone who is much much more accessible. Individuals have much more of a voice with these public officials so I think it is definitely important to be putting good, qualified people into these positions.
AM: This has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life because I am helping the Newark community get better representation. I am involved in democracy first hand through this campaign.
Honors student Alex Minore (second from right) worked with Bryan Townsend's (center back) campaign team this fall.
KS: Taking the time to go to the doors of individual voters and giving them time to hear their concerns really does resonate. I'm sure there were very few, if any, other campaigns in this state that so meticulously identified voters to canvass. By the end, there were many people whom we had been to their homes two, even three times before Sept. 11; and even on primary day there were voters in the district who came up to me and said that they remembered me from coming to their doorstep. In short, careful and driven grassroots campaigning really does work.
AM: I have learned so much from this experience but the most important lessons are that voters are very responsive to concerned candidates and organization, in politics, is the key to success.
KS: I should be surprised that we actually won the primary (and will likely win the general election) given that almost everyone in the Democratic Party supported our opponent including the Governor and Lt. Governor; but I knew from the way our team campaigned that winning was a definite possibility. However, I will say that I was surprised, in this instance that money could not buy an election. Our opponent outspent out by about 6 to 1. But, people really do not respond well to a candidate just sending them a whole bunch of mail and blowing up their phones.
AM: I was very surprised by how much organization actually goes into a small grassroots campaign like Bryan's.
KS: I have always been involved and passionate about politics but I have been pretty set on working in the international development field. While this does not directly relate to that type of work, it has certainly helped me in gaining experience in how to organize and coordinate a big group of volunteers. And just in general, it was important for me to have this ability to gain the experience and have the responsibility of leading a group of volunteers because that will likely be something I will be doing in the future.
AM: I actually want to become involved with politics and public service as a career so this is a great opportunity for me. I would just like to thank Bryan and the rest of the campaign team for making this such an enriching experience.
For our first edition of Honors in the Lab, we interviewed three of our Honors Degree with Distinction candidates about their senior theses. This week, Jock Gilchrist, Chris Hartung and Patrick Byrd talk about how their investigations into human thought and behavior.
"I'm hoping to learn how we can achieve the most effective social change that betters society in a permanent, sustainable way so that we can continue to subsist on earth without facing major environmental, governmental, or economic meltdowns--even, dare I say--not just avoid catastrophe, but inspire a healthful and beneficial way of existing.
For me, the thing most exciting about doing research for a senior thesis is being able to pursue a topic I'm personally interested in without the fetters of a typical academic course. The most challenging part of my research is compiling the important ideas from different sources and synthesizing them into something coherent.
I want my career to be based around spreading the concepts of real sustainability to the wider public, whether that means through environmental organizing, journalism, or teaching. If I go for a Masters or PhD I want it to be in Climate Science, Religious Studies, or Sustainable Development. My thesis is providing a solid basis to pursue one of those fields"
"The most exciting thing [about writing a thesis] is finding elements of Aquinas's thought which no one else seems to have noticed before. The most challenging part is finding all of the relevant secondary sources, especially since some of them have never been translated from the original Latin/French/Italian. I'm hoping to learn more about the philosophy of St. Thomas, since he is probably the greatest Christian philosopher of all time. I'm planning to go into seminary next year. Writing this thesis will give me a head start on the philosophy courses, since they put so much emphasis on St. Thomas."
"The most enjoyable thing about research, particularly with philosophy, is seeing the myriad of viewpoints that others have. Some are common ones, while others can be really off the wall at times. Over time, though, one begins to see a conversation form with individuals responding in articles and referencing one another.
I guess the most challenging part of the research is trying to find support for my view. At times I have been a staunch supporter of one stance, but am forced to change my mind based upon a very good argument, even if I don't like it. But I guess that's the goal in research.
In doing this research I set out one goal to maintain. I wanted my "solution" about vagueness to reflect how the "folk" feel about the issue. Basically I wanted to understand why do we have the normal opinions one could have on vagueness, and try to support that. My inclination is that the way we commonly use our language is done so for a reason, and that reasoning needs to be taken into consideration. However, I need to find support for that inclination, which has always been important to the way I think about philosophy.
I plan on entering a doctoral program in philosophy. These can be quite competitive, thus having the senior thesis project would be an asset in such."
Visit our official blog, 186 South College, for updates on the Honors Enrichment Award Reports. Click here to read more.