New Experiences, New Hampshire

Alexandria Watts '20

Alexandria Watts ’20 provides an insider’s look at the Marist Poll’s recent trip to New Hampshire for the presidential primary.

Editor’s note: Earlier this month, the Marist Poll led a trip to New Hampshire for the presidential primary. Twenty-seven Marist students—from all majors—attended and had a firsthand look at the presidential primary process. Lee Miringoff and Barbara Carvalho, the Directors of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and the Marist Poll, respectively, created a four-day itinerary designed to give students a full picture of the run-up to the vote. They attended candidate rallies, the Democratic debate, President Trump’s rally, and had behind-the-scenes access to broadcast news productions.

February 20, 2020—The Marist Poll is one of Marist College’s crown jewels. The Poll is more than just a campus job (though it is in fact a campus job for hundreds of students each year). It is a place much more special than that. While data collection through phone calling is a very important aspect of the organization, the Poll has always prided itself on student interaction with today’s political and journalistic landscapes. But it is a place much more special than that. While data collection is a very important aspect to the organization, the Poll has always prided itself on student interaction with today’s political and journalistic landscapes.

I am one of many students whose academic, professional, and personal growth has been fostered by opportunities presented to me by the Marist Poll. As someone who was considered shy in high school, I found self-assurance in cold calling individuals nationwide to participate in surveys, and this confidence was boosted when I was promoted to leadership positions. My time as a Newsfeed Media Assistant has been the most influential on my career development. I have had so many incredible experiences during my time in this role, from coordinating with staff to designing content for social media, to spearheading the revival of the Marist Poll’s LinkedIn page, to traveling to CBS Radio in New York City for the 2018 Midterm Elections, to assisting with media content development. These opportunities have made me realize that my heart belonged in the news industry and that I wanted to seek a livelihood in digital media following my graduation this upcoming May.

The 2020 New Hampshire Primary experience was no different.

This excursion was filled with so many hands-on opportunities for students to engage with. We witnessed rallies for candidates on both sides of the political aisle and made observations about their campaign messages. We grabbed selfies and shook hands with candidates like Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar. We listened in real time to what these politicians had to say about the issues they feel need to be addressed, and some of us left with new perspectives on our current state of government.

Alexandria Watts, as well as other students who participated in the New Hampshire primary experience, met with presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar following the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club event. Photo by Alexandria Watts.

We had behind-the-scenes access to NBC’s “Meet the Press” and “Fox News Sunday” where we saw firsthand what goes into producing a newscast. These visits also allowed us to watch journalists Chuck Todd and Chris Wallace in action as they interviewed some of the most influential figures in our political climate. Students also had one-on-one interactions with the reporters and asked them about their insights and expertise.

One of the most exciting moments of our trip was when we learned that we could attend the Democratic debate live at Saint Anselm College. Our original plan was to view the debate at a watch party on the college campus, but with a last-minute notice we were able to see the candidates up close and personally as they discussed their platforms. Getting to experience this moment in person, as opposed to watching it as it was broadcast on a television screen, is something that I will never forget.

Throughout this experience I learned so much not only from the events we witnessed, but also from my peers. I was surrounded by 26 thought leaders in policy, political campaigns, and media messaging that introduced me to new ways of viewing the events we witnessed during our trip. Whether it be on long bus rides or over dinner, we challenged one another to consider our observations in different lights and introduced each other to views that differed from those we already aligned ourselves with.

I am extremely grateful to all of the political and press figures I met and interacted with throughout this journey, the students that explored New Hampshire with me, and the Marist Poll staff for bringing us along for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Alexandria Watts (left) shaking hands with presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg following a campaign rally.  

Alexandria Watts is a senior from Staten Island, New York. She is a Communication major with dual concentrations in Journalism and Public Relations, a Business minor, and is also in the Honors Program at Marist. She began working at the Marist Poll during the first semester of her freshman year as a student interviewer. Before the start of her junior year she was promoted to be a Coach, which is a student supervising position, in addition to becoming a Newsfeed Media Assistant. Today she continues to serve in her role as a Media Assistant, focusing most of her work on the Marist Poll’s social media presence, as well as a Head Coach in the phone room.

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