Rare course provides communicative view of election

By Lauren Lavelle

Every four years, as a new presidential election season rolls around, Professor of Communication Dr. Myra Gutin gives Rider students a rare look into the communicative aspects of the election with her class Communication and Society: The Making of the President.

“The objective of the class is to view the presidential campaign of 2016 in terms of communication,” said Gutin. “The speeches that are made, the press relations, the public relations, the debates—we make sense out of what we’ve heard by looking at those elements.”

Gutin, who has been teaching her Making of the President class every four years since 1988, understands millennials often have a hard time comprehending the political process and hopes they will be able to make sense of the election after completing her course.

“This election is like no other we’ve ever had,” said Gutin. “It’s different, so it’s hard to make generalizations. As with any other Making of the President class that I’ve done, it helps people to understand the issues. It gives them an understanding of what politics can and cannot do, but, because we come at it from communication, the emphasis is a little bit different. We’re looking at public discourse.”

A self-proclaimed “political junky,” Gutin realizes the benefits Making of the President has both for herself and her students.

“For me, I get to do something that I love every four years,” said Gutin. “I love to share it with other people, it’s so much fun. This is a way to learn about public policy from the standpoint of communication and how it’s shared with people in our country, so I think that’s one thing that’s very positive.”

Senior communication studies major Leah Corcillo enrolled in the course because she could see how beneficial the information would be.

“It’s supremely interesting,” said Corcillo. “You really get an understanding of not only how our government works and how the president is elected, but how campaigns and the media are all working gears in the system to shape our perception of the election from start to finish.”

Corcillo also credits Gutin’s passion for politics as the deciding factor for her interest in the class.

“Dr. Gutin is very established in her field and is able to bring in a number of awesome guest speakers and she is so knowledgeable,” said Corcillo. “Her passion for the course makes it that much more enjoyable to learn from her.”

Through various projects aimed at breaking down and analyzing the election, Gutin’s students strive to appreciate the ups and downs of the political world while also attempting to get the campus community involved.

“Our class is going to be doing a presidential polling project, so you’ll see them all over campus,” said Gutin. “They’ve been scoring the debates and, as we get closer to the election, I am going to ask them to make their declaration: Who do I think is going to win?”

“This class really helps you understand the mechanics of the presidential election,” adds Corcillo. “We’ve learned about everything from the electoral college to how the media and news cycles operate. It really helps you grasp what’s going on in all the madness. You can have a frame of reference, and learn how to take all of the stories flying around about either candidate and figure out the angle and how to interpret where the information is coming from and what it means to you personally.”

Gutin also stresses how important advanced access to political information is and how students in particular should utilize their resources more efficiently.

“There’s a lot of material that’s available,” said Gutin. “You can’t say today that you don’t know what someone’s position is because all you need is a click of the mouse and you’re there. There is no reason you can’t get the information that you want.”

Gutin believes the key to politics is education and staying up to date with current events.

“Educate yourself,” said Gutin. “You need to keep an open mind and pay attention to what is going on in the news. In this particular election cycle, something is happening every minute. One of the requirements for my class is that you must vote; you can’t sit out. I think it’s very important for people to take part in this instead of sitting home.”

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