Kent State Students Gain Valuable Experience During RNC in Cleveland

Students Gain Valuable Experience During RNC in Cleveland

As politicians, delegates, media and communications professionals from across the country descend upon Cleveland for the 2016 Republican National Convention, so too will students from Kent State University, using the skills they’ve learned to gain valuable work experience.

Public relations major Sarah Matthews from Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication has been working with the Republican National Convention’s Committee on Arrangements as an intern in the digital department since mid-May. She helps maintain the convention’s online and social media presence by creating Snapchat stories, writing blog posts, filming and editing videos, drafting tweets and more – all tasks she has been well-prepared to take on, thanks to her public relations courses at Kent State.

She will be based at Media Row for the entire week of the convention, and throughout her internship, she has had a front-row seat to the committee’s preparation for and execution of the historic event.

“I started my internship two-and-a-half months prior to convention, but people have been planning this for more than a year,” Matthews said. “I didn’t realize coming into this internship just how much work goes into planning a convention and how many moving parts there are.”

Reporting on the Convention

Meanwhile, journalism majors will spend the week of the convention reporting for and assisting professional reporters from across the country covering the event.

Three students – Portia Booker, Megan Deierling and Clint Datchuk – started working with field reporters from PBS NewsHour two weeks prior to the convention. The Kent State students are assisting the field reporters at convention events, proceedings and delegate meetings all over Cleveland.

Five others – Patrick Shade, Cameron Gorman, Matt Poe, Taylor Kerns and Anna Huntsman – will contribute to news coverage for TEGNA Inc. stations across the country for both the Republican and Democratic conventions. Based in WKYC Channel 3’s downtown Cleveland newsroom for both conventions, the Kent State students will assist TEGNA’s team of convention reporters with fact-checking, researching and data mining. TEGNA, formerly Gannett Co., owns 46 television stations in 38 markets, including WKYC, Cleveland’s NBC affiliate.

Alexandra Delaney-Gesing, summer editor for, will lead student media’s convention coverage. She and five other students will report from Cleveland throughout the week, many with media credentials and access to convention events at Quicken Loans Arena. Others will cover protests and happenings outside the convention’s official perimeter.

In addition, 29 Kent State students with various majors, including communication studies, history, journalism, managerial marketing, Pan-African studies, political science and public relations, have been hired by CBS News as runners for the month of July. Their duties will vary and can range from answering phones to going on errands to assisting the production staff.

Providing Safety and Security

In addition to Matthews, Kent State criminology major Nick Carson landed an internship with the Republican National Convention. He started his internship in late May. Carson’s role is planning and coordinating the logistics within the security division to ensure safety for convention delegates and visitors at Quicken Loans Arena, or the Q. 

“I’m working with members of law enforcement to assist in planning safety and security measures inside the Q as well as around the perimeter,” Carson said. “This experience is fantastic and allows me to gain a unique perspective into the advance work that must be done to ensure a safe major world event.”

Serving Convention Attendees

Delegates from each state and U.S. territory are filling up area hotels and restaurants. To help serve the convention-goers in many ways, 20 students from Kent State’s Hospitality Management program are working at various downtown Cleveland and area properties. The students have been tasked with a variety of jobs, including delivering and setting up products and food, checking in guests and catering to the needs of delegates staying at various Cleveland- and Akron-area hotels.

Engaging in Conversations

Kent State’s College of Communication and Information is partnering with Purple America, a national initiative aimed at refocusing the American conversation to a civil, productive and respective dialogue on common values, during the convention. Kent State students, faculty and administrators will have the opportunity to attend speaker sessions, panel discussions and roundtables at the organization’s 2,500-square-foot Purple Tent, just outside the convention’s perimeter. Topics include “Polling and Media,” “Engaging Millennials,” “Is Civility Dead?” and more. Kent State students are volunteering as live bloggers for the organization to document the events. Public relations majors Taylor Meade and Maggie Wachtel of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and global communication master's degree student Erica Batyko of the School of Communication Studies are the official student bloggers and social media representatives for the College of Communication and Information and Purple America accounts at the Republican National Convention, which can be followed at #CCIRNC, #CCIPurpleTent and #Purple4Civility.

Witnessing History

Students agree that the convention offers an unparalleled chance to witness history for the region and gain professional experience.

“After the Cavs championship and now the hype surrounding the Indians, the energy in the city is at an all-time high,” Matthews said. “I’m hoping that we can keep this momentum going heading into the week of convention and pull off a fantastic event. The convention coming to Cleveland is such a historic moment for this city, and I’m so happy to be a part of the team that’s going to show the country everything I already know Cleveland has to offer. As a Northeast Ohioan, I couldn’t ask for a better time to be living and working in downtown Cleveland, and I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity.”

POSTED: Friday, July 15, 2016 10:05 AM
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2022 05:56 PM
Christina Russ and Emily Vincent