The first presidential debate of 2016 held by Hofstra provided students the opportunity to volunteer to help with media production and communications, event operations, debate production and general operational tasks. The roughly 300 student volunteers offered the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) assistance and were given the opportunity to gain experience and witness their possible careers.
The university’s main hope was that students would benefit from all the opportunities presented. The student volunteers were excited to be involved in one of the largest events in media history. For some, the presidential debate represented a culmination of a life-long search for their passions.
Ellen Boyle, a sophomore video and television business major, volunteered for the media filing center and worked with various media outlets by helping them find and set up their main work sites. Boyle’s said her experience was overwhelmingly positive, stressing the benefit of her coordinator’s advice from a business prospective.
“My coordinator helped me understand the importance of professionalism and taking initiative,” Boyle said.
She believes that her experience as a volunteer at the debate solidified what she wants to do with her life. “I had always been interested in media and politics. Being in the center of the excitement of the debate and seeing how everything was put together from behind the scenes made me sure it’s where I want to be,” she said.
Boyle’s feeling of gratefulness, however, was not universal amongst student volunteers from the media filing center.
Hannah Billbrough, a junior video and television production major, did not believe that her experience was very beneficial. The main tasks she was given involved using her own Twitter account to raise interaction numbers and passing out “swag” to earn crowds of students.
Billbrough did say she learned useful skills within her field such as “working under stress, professionalism and the impact of social media outreach,” by completing her “meaningless” tasks. Yet, Billbrough did mention that her greatest opportunity on debate day was the ability to witness live television productions for the first time.
While student volunteers shared mixed emotions about the opportunities provided to them on debate day, there is no denying that they gained experience and the ability to list such experience on their resume.
Boyle said, “Having this opportunity so early in my college career has given me such an advantage when working towards my future and I could not be more grateful to Hofstra for that.”