Auction Funds: How do they help?

santorum_lindsey

Lindsey Meeks interviews Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum in Denver. Photo by Corey Christiansen

As the 4th annual Spring Fundraiser quickly approaches, we wanted to share a few stories about how the money raised at past auctions has helped students and their endeavors:

UW Communication Ph.D. student Lindsey Meeks, who is primarily focusing on political communication in news, media, and gender, got to see her research play out first-hand while participating in a program called UW Election Eye last year. This program, partnered with The Seattle Times, fostered an on-the-ground blog about the 2012 election campaign as seen by UW students and faculty, which will return in 2016.

“I’ve only read candidate speeches and administrated surveys to get voters evaluations,” Meeks said. “I haven’t ever talked to candidates or voters really beyond my friends and family, so for me, my whole impetus going into this was the idea that I could actually see my research in reality. I got to see it play out; it wasn’t just some numbers in a data set, but individual people.”

Getting access to presidential candidates was something that Meeks never thought she would get the opportunity to do growing up in Texas (a solidly red state) and moving to Washington (a traditionally blue state), both places that candidates don’t frequent while campaigning. So during the first nine-day trip to South Carolina, she was in for a surprise.

Seeing and talking to presidential candidates “very quickly became the norm,” Meeks said. “There was candidates around that you saw and it’s not just something you saw on TV, but you are interacting heavily with voters and with the actual candidates from time to time.”

Meeks also traveled to Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, throughout Washington, and Colorado, where she met and interviewed Rick Santorum, along with his two oldest children, just as he was gaining momentum in March.

Santorum’s son John received a box of brownies and was handing them out. “It was one of those surreal moments where I was eating a brownie from John Santorum, waiting in line to talk to Rick Santorum, after just talking to his daughter,” Meeks said. “It was weird to go from thinking that I never had access to having what felt like a lot, and in ways that I never thought I would have.”

Another advantage to the program is that it incorporates people from every section of the Department of Communication, including undergraduate students, graduate scholars in both the M.A./Ph.D. and MCDM program, and faculty, who don’t typically get to interact that often.

“It was great because MCDM often had so much more knowledge about things like data visualization and how to really make those things pop,” Meeks said, “and then I had this junior journalism student showing me some of the ropes on what they are doing. And I bring to it the fact that I’ve done a lot of this kind of bigger thinking in terms of the literature about these things… All the segments of this Department felt like they were cohesive and one.”

Meeks ultimately wants to become a professor in political and mass communication and said the program is “something I would love to take on as a professor wherever I end up because that’s just how much value I see in it.”

Leader of the program and Department Chair David Domke’s farewell remark on December 12, 2012 stated: “We have filed more than 400 posts on U.S. presidential, state, and local politics over the past 12 months. It’s been an incredible experience as journalists, educators, and citizens. We’re now going to take a break, but we’ll be back in four years for the next presidential rodeo.”

Register for the Spring Fundraiser here >>

Spinroom

The Spin Room press crush around South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in Charleston. Photo by Alex Stonehill