COURTESY JIM PARENTI
COURTESY JIM PARENTI

While most students spent the beginning of this week fine-tuning their course schedules and lugging their storage boxes across campus, Chair of the Georgetown University College Republicans Maggie Cleary (COL ’14) and 19 other representatives from Georgetown joined the nearly 20,000-strong crowd at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

“[It] was amazing,” Cleary said. “This was a tremendous opportunity, certainly not one that everyone gets, and we’re lucky to get this while we’re at Georgetown.”

The trip to the convention, which was held from Aug. 28 to Aug. 30, was sponsored by the School of Continuing Studies. The SCS will also be sending a delegation to the Democratic National Convention, beginning Sept. 4 in Charlotte, NC.

According to SCS Senior Associate Dean James Parenti, planning for the trip began six months ago, when the school was evaluating its “Semester in Washington D.C.” program, which allows college students from universities outside of D.C. to take classes at Georgetown while interning in the District. Parenti realized that the SCS was missing out on an opportunity to collaborate more with Georgetown undergraduates, and decided to arrange a delegation of Georgetown students and faculty to attend each of the conventions.

“It’s very much in line with what SCS does in all of our programs,” Parenti said. “We provide opportunities for students to have rich and engaging classroom experiences that every student looks forward to when they attend Georgetown, but we also provide them [with] opportunities where they can take the theory that they’re studying and learning about in the classroom environment and actually see how that theory is applied in the real world.”

According to Parenti, the organization process was long and complicated, but Georgetown’s political connections — SCS faculty member and former Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush Bradley Blakemen as well as Georgetown Public Policy Institute Professor and former Counselor to President Clinton Paul Begala — helped make the program possible.

Once details of the trips were finalized, the SCS contacted GUCR and the Georgetown University College Democrats to encourage interested members to apply.

Blakemen and Parenti accompanied the 20 members of the Georgetown delegation to Tampa. All participants were selected by a lottery and include undergraduate, graduate and SCS students.

“For individuals who have never attended a political convention, this has been a very eye-opening experience for them,” Parenti said. “What you see behind the scenes and what takes place at the convention and surrounding the convention are experiences not typically covered by the media, and they’re not typically experienced by the average American, so they have an opportunity to have a truly unique behind-the-scenes experience.”

Cleary, who is also the head of the Washington D.C. chapter of Students for Romney, said she was surprised by some aspects of the convention.

“Sometimes, when you think convention, you don’t think policy talks as much as you think of rallies and cheering,” she said. “[But] it was very intellectual,” she said.

Cleary said she attended policy discussions, met reporters from Bloomberg and Politico and attended some of the convention’s biggest speeches at night.

Speakers included New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Ann Romney and Republican primary candidates Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty.

“Their speeches were really, really great,” Cleary said of Christie and Romney’s talks. “One of the bigger purposes of the convention is to get people excited and … I think they both did that very successfully.”

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