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Analyzing the election

By Mara Fink '11
November 3, 2008

As the 2008 campaign season winds down, two St. Olaf College classes have teamed up to create a place for community members to come together and digest the results and meaning of this year's election.

Dan Hofrenning's Politics 111 class, along with Eric Fure-Slocum's American Conversations 101 class, will host a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9 in Regents Hall 150. MinnPost blogger and former Star Tribune reporter Eric Black will be the panel's featured guest.

"He has a track record of probing and insightful journalism. I think in an era where some journalists are quick to give a sound-byte coverage to politics, Eric Black is someone who likes to dig beyond the surface and figure out what's really going on," Hofrenning says.

The panel discussion will focus on the increased role of young people in this year's elections. Hofrenning says younger people are embracing electoral politics this year in a way they haven't in the past. Black also points out that although the stereotype has been that young voters tend to favor Democratic candidates, in recent elections the difference in their support for one party over another has not been great. However, in this election he says Obama's edge from this demographic is expected to be huge.

The two classes hosting the panel have been involved in civic engagement projects for the past few weeks. They have been registering voters, working on campaigns and training to be election judges. At the panel, the students will discuss their experiences working on their projects and answer questions community members have about their experiences.

The idea behind the civic engagement projects was to give students a better idea of how people think about voting and citizenship and to relate it back to their coursework. "It's an attempt to combine traditional academic learning with an experience in the field in which students have to roll up their sleeves and do a little of the work of politics," Hofrenning says. "It's hard work, but it's deeply rewarding work."

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or