When the Democratic Party selected Charlotte, N.C., as its convention site, the choice was hailed as a first for the Carolinas. It was a moment to celebrate the progress and development of the Carolinas since the last convention here in 1860. The Carolinas today epitomize the economic growth of the South over the past 60 years and demonstrate the ever increasing importance of the South in today’s politics.

Early on the morning of Sept. 1, more than 100 South Carolina college students and faculty members will board buses for downtown Charlotte, N.C. For the next three days, this diverse group of men and women – drawn from Winthrop, Lander, Newberry, Wofford, Coastal Carolina, Columbia College, York Technical College, South Carolina State, Greenville Technical College, Clinton Junior College and University of South Carolina-Lancaster – will learn about American politics. They will engage in many preconvention activities working from a base of operations just blocks from the Time Warner convention site.

The students and faculty will hear from a variety of experts and political figures — including national Republican Party official Glenn McCall, members of the S.C. delegation and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives. They’ll see another side of democracy, too – protesters in Charlotte to voice their concerns about banking regulations, the environment, same sex marriage and many other important issues.

Winthrop University is especially well-positioned to take full advantage of this presidential election year. Located in Rock Hill, the university hosted many Republican primary candidates as they campaigned in the country’s “first in the South” primary state. And now, with its close proximity to the Queen City, Winthrop is able to offer students, faculty and the community a glimpse of the workings of the presidential nominating process at the Democratic Convention. It is truly the best of both worlds.

This opportunity is just the latest for our students — many of whom help conduct the Winthrop Poll throughout the school year. The data provided by the Winthrop Polls have proved indispensable to national and local observers of the political scene, as they endeavor to track the latest political sentiments of those in the Palmetto State. In addition numerous internships are available for students, along with the 36-year-old Model United Nations program for high school and college students.

Thirty Winthrop students will remain in Charlotte during the days of the actual convention. These students are currently enrolled in a distinctive course, which started online on Aug. 1. It focuses on the evolution of presidential nominating processes in the United States and in other countries. The convention will allow the students to see the information they learned put into practice, climaxing with President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Bank of America Stadium on Sept. 6. Throughout the process, they will have ample opportunity to ask questions, take pictures and blog as they learn.

The experience will help this fortunate group of students become educated and engaged citizens. And through their work with traditional and social media, others will get a chance to watch their progress. We urge you to experience this convention through their eyes at winthrop.edu/westforum/default.aspx?id25458.

Karen M. Kedrowski is the chair of Winthrop’s Department of Political Science and director of John C. West Forum on Politics and Policy. Katarina Moyon is a political science adjunct faculty member and assistant director of the West Forum. Together, they are teaching the Winthrop course on presidential nominating conventions.

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