When her class began looking at possible presidential candidates for 2016, Elizabeth Trout ’17 had no idea she’d get the chance to arrange an actual meeting with the political figure she and a group of fellow students had decided to study. But that’s exactly what happened on October 16, when Trout, five other Hollins students, and Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch traveled to Charlottesville to introduce themselves to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
Trout and two of the students who made the trip are enrolled in Lynch’s first-year seminar, “How to be a President,” which examines what goes on in a presidential campaign and in the first months of a presidential term. Students “adopt” a possible presidential candidate and take part in a number of hands-on, collaborative projects designed to capture the essence and the spirit of trying to become president. (In addition to Haley, students in this semester’s class could choose from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Virginia Senator Mark Warner.)
When Trout, a political science major and a volunteer in the gubernatorial campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, learned Haley would be appearing on behalf of Cuccinelli at a fundraising event in Charlottesville, she immediately recognized an opportunity to augment what her class group was studying in addition to meeting the candidate she supported.
“I talked with a few other girls and we really wanted to go,” she explained. “I emailed the woman who was in charge of that specific event and asked if a group of students could come, and she said yes.”
Lynch arranged transportation for a total of six students (including three Hollins students not enrolled in the class) and himself to attend, but emphasized that Trout took the lead on arranging the trip. “She learned of the event, arranged for Hollins students to get in for free, and gave me directions to the site.”
Trout admitted she and the other students were a little overwhelmed when they arrived at the event (“The six of us were just kind of wandering around, intimidated but excited at the same time”), so Lynch approached Haley and told her he had students in attendance who would like to meet her.
“Gov. Haley walked right over, shook all our hands, and we talked to her for a good while,” Trout recalled.
Trout said the students who attended the event are from across the political spectrum. “One tends to be more liberal but was interested in hearing what was said. Another was kind of on the fence as to who she is going to vote for” in the Virginia gubernatorial election on November 5.
Trout doesn’t know if Haley is seriously considering a run in 2016, but “I could definitely see her doing well as a national candidate. She’s very impressive.” She was also delighted that Cuccinelli noted in his remarks the presence of students from two schools – the University of Virginia and Hollins.