Wednesday, September 02, 2015

UTSA political science students watch presidential debates, analyze candidate responses

debate viewing
debate viewing

Presidential debate viewing Oct. 3 at UTSA Main Campus
(Photos by Kris Rodriguez)

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(Oct. 16, 2012) -- Students filled the Main Building auditoriums on the UTSA Main Campus Oct. 3 to watch the first presidential debate and Oct. 11 for the vice presidential debate. Hosted by the UTSA Department of Political Science and Geography, Student Government Association and SA Votes 2012 members, there also will be presidential debate viewings from 7:30 to 10 p.m., Oct. 16 and 22 in the Main Building Auditoriums (0.106 and 0.104). Free and open to the public, the goal of the events is to encourage student participation in the political process.

"It was awesome to see students involved in political affairs," said Daniel Khalil, UTSA senior political science and anthropology major, at the Oct. 3 viewing. "This event showed that students are interested in the political process with all their cheering and responses during the debate."

As a class assignment, UTSA political science professors Jeff Harmon and Henry Esparza encouraged their students to express their opinions during the debate through the use of an interactive application survey. The virtual lab gauged viewer reactions during the debate as each speaker covered a topic. Questions appeared on screens as subjects arose during the live debate to see if the viewer liked or disliked a candidate's response.

"We gave students some data analysis tools in class on determining who the average voter is," said Harmon. "We then wanted the students to observe the debate and figure out which audience the candidate is trying to appeal to."

For many students, it was the first time they had watched an electoral debate.

"Coming to a debate watch is a lot cooler than having to learn about polling trends on your own with just a textbook," said Nathan Olivares, UTSA sophomore small business and entrepreneurship major. "We had to learn about polling research and determine for ourselves if they are reliable resources in predicting who gets elected for presidency."

POL 1013 (Introduction to American Politics) is one of the 15 courses under the Quantitative Literacy Program (QLP), which aims to help students develop their quantitative reasoning skills by increasing contextual learning and advancing student knowledge of data analysis.

"Harmon's class is always politically charging," said Alejandro Mayor, a sophomore business management major. "I try to keep myself more informed on current affairs so I'm prepared to participate in class and throw in my opinions."

Harmon's and Esparza's students learn to look at data and understand the demographic factors that underlie a range of political variables including partisanship, ideology and turnout.

"We had the students look at the survey data and determine where the trends were going to go," Harmon said. "Now, they'll go back to see if these debates matter in the polling trends. Will these debates change the opinions of the voters or not?"

 

 

Did You Know?

Football standouts make Roadrunner history

For Ashaad Mabry and Triston Wade, football is not just a passing fancy. Both players were part of the UTSA football program almost from the beginning. When UTSA opens the 2015 season Thursday at Arizona, it will be the first time the Roadrunners take the field without them. But Mabry and Wade will still be playing football; their uniforms will just be a different color.

Mabry, a defensive tackle from San Antonio's MacArthur High School, was an honorable mention All-Conference USA selection his final two seasons as a Roadrunner and second among the team's defensive linemen with 49 tackles last year. Wade, a defensive back from Tyler, was the most decorated player in school history. He was a semifinalist for the 2014 Jim Thorpe Award – for the nation's top defensive back – a three-time all-conference honoree and two-year team captain who set a school record of 293 tackles in his career. Both men had outstanding college careers that allowed them to make UTSA history.

Did you know? Mabry and Wade both agreed to terms as undrafted free agents with the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, respectively, becoming the first UTSA players to move to the professional ranks.

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