Saint Leo Creates Learning Opportunities During Political Conventions

April 05, 2012


Saint Leo University is working with academic and civic organizations to allow students to obtain internships and volunteer-learning opportunities during the upcoming Republican and Democratic national political conventions.

As an academic institution, Saint Leo’s activity is completely non-partisan, and endorses no political party or candidate.

The university is affording interested students the rare educational opportunity of seeing citizens participate in national conventions and debate policy, of witnessing the way a major city accommodates thousands of visitors at once, and of observing the methods public safety and security personnel use to handle crowds, traffic, and political expression by large groups.

"This is potentially experiential learning at its finest," explains Maribeth Durst, vice president of academic affairs at the university. In late 2011, Dr. Durst noted, some undergraduates from University Campus had the chance to volunteer at the CNN/tea party-sponsored debate among Republican presidential primary candidates and in doing that work, they gained profound insights into their roles as citizens and voters.

"We expect similar opportunities with the Republican National Convention in Tampa, which is just 30 minutes away from University Campus, and with the Democratic National Convention, which follows immediately in September in Charlotte, N.C.," Dr. Durst said. Saint Leo created an internal application program so that students from all teaching locations, including online, could compete for Saint Leo scholarships for five academic internships – four at the Republican National Convention, and one at both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic national Convention. The academic internships are organized by The Washington Center (, a well-regarded nonprofit organization. Winners of the scholarships will be announced soon.

Students will also have the chance to volunteer through the university and the Tampa host committee for the Republican National Convention.