“Road to 2020:” Celebrating Drake’s role in politics

In preparation for the upcoming presidential election and Iowa Caucuses, Meredith Hall’s front windows have adopted a new look — red and blue window clings that read “road to 2020 starts here.” The clings, which were installed on Sept. 4, highlight the impact that the university and its students have on the upcoming Iowa caucuses and presidential election.

“Drake is increasingly recognized as a focal point for the kickoff of the US presidential campaigns,” School of Journalism and Mass Communications Dean Kathleen Richardson said. “We are celebrating the role that Drake plays in the American electoral process, the opportunities that it brings to our campus and to our students and the fact that we are very proud that we are able to provide this kind of forum for intelligent, civil debate and discourse around politics.”

The design for the windows was developed by University Communications and Marketing (UCM) staff in partnership with an outside firm. According to UCM Director of Communications Jarad Bernstein, the goal of the environmental branding was to “create a visually stunning embodiment of the excitement on campus” for caucus season. The UCM doesn’t plan to install any other clings that celebrate Drake’s role in the caucuses around campus, however. The caucus-themed decoration, while referring to Drake as a whole, is specific to Meredith because it houses both political science and journalism majors.

“I think they’re beautiful,” Professor Rachel Paine Caufield said. “Just as the road to the White House begins in Iowa, when we say that the road to 2020 starts at Drake, we’re really claiming our role in Iowa politics.”

Political involvement at Drake is a “decades long tradition,” Dean Richardson said, which commenced the 1970s when the Iowa caucuses first began. Since then, the campus has seen presidential campaigns, debates, victory parties, and everything in between. Students further their learning about politics through clubs, working on campaigns, listening to visiting candidates, and even some classes boast curriculums tailored to the current political climate. 

“It’s not just political science students, students from all across the university have a chance to get involved in this process,” Professor Caufield said. “A lot of people think of politics as something that happens far away, important people wandering around marble hallways in suits and ties and high heels. Instead, I think it’s important to realize that we are the people on the ground, we are the ones who get to make these choices. We’re in a unique position, students, faculty, staff, to be able to participate in this process.”

Students at Drake aren’t the only ones who can learn about the upcoming election on while on campus. Different programs frequently host events to inform the public or other, more specialized groups of people about all things related to caucus season. 

“We think of ourselves as providing a resource for our community about issues related to the presidential campaign,” Dean Richardson said. “In the past, we’ve hosted panel discussions, and guest speakers. This coming weekend, we are hosting a political reporting institute in which reporters from around the country are coming to Des Moines and to Drake to learn what best practices are for political reporting. Last month, we hosted a similar bootcamp for journalists on how to cover issues related to science in the presidential campaign, so we see ourselves as providing that kind of information for not only journalists, but also for the community as a whole.”

While the caucuses are still months away, students are already preparing to get their hands dirty during election season.

“Students who are here this year and next year especially are going to be really lucky because it’s just a very exciting time to be at Drake,” Dean Richardson said. “There’s always something going on, there’s always a congressional campaign going on, there’s always a local campaign, so there’s plenty of opportunities for students to take advantage of when they are here.”

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