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National Campaign Conference: Harvard Institute of Politics

National Campaign Conference – Harvard Institute of Politics 

In partnership the Institute on Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, two students from Vanderbilt are selected each year to serve as National Campaign Ambassadors and representatives of the institution. This year, the focus of the conference was Activating Campus Voter Participation to outline how colleges can increase voter participation and engagement and dismantle barriers to democracy on their campuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

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National Campaign Conference AmbassaDores

Gracie Rule (Class of 2020, Human and Organizational Development & Political Science) and Christian Suarez (Class of 2020, Graduate Student, Economics) represented Vanderbilt University at the 2020 National Campaign Conference. These students were selected because of their outstanding dedication to their communities and commitment to fostering a civically minded campus. Here’s what Christian had to say about this year’s conference.

            “It was incredible to hear from practitioners from all walks of political life and to have the opportunity to meet and engage with other amazing, driven students from across the country about politics. The weekend began with a panel discussion on youth activism in 2020 and included lively discussion about the role of the youth voice in the political landscape. We then spent the evening attending the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards Ceremony where three recipients boldly told their story of forging into new territory and serving the public good, both within and outside of government. Caroline Kennedy moderated a discussion with the recipients and after a reception, conference attendees ended the night with a debate watch party.

            The next day we hopped on a bus and headed to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH, where the Democratic debate had been held the night before. We heard from political science professors who discussed the Iowa Caucus debacle and the significance of the New Hampshire primary. We also heard from presidential hopeful Deval Patrick, while sitting in a room that nearly every presidential hopeful from the last 40 years had stepped through on their path to become their party’s nominee, as New Hampshire is one of the first stops on the long road to the White House. 

            After lunch at the famous “Puritan Backroom” where we heard from multiple campaign surrogates for presidential candidates, we headed out to do some canvasing for the presidential candidate of our choice. We were given an opportunity to see what it’s like to be the boots on the ground for a campaign, going door to door through the sleet and snow to try and reach as many potential voters as possible. For someone who was born and raised in Miami, Florida, it was quite the experience. You could feel the excitement and anticipation all around. 

           On the final day of the conference we had the opportunity to participate in various breakout sessions about plugging into resources for student voter readiness. Sessions covered topics like: building a campus-wide coalition, tackling structural barriers to youth and college student participation, and campus action planning. We ended the day in a town hall, led by John Della Volpe, the Director of Polling at the Institute of Politics, that allowed students to have open discussions about serious topics in our current political landscape. Students talked about the issues that kept them up at night, the degree to which our views were represented, and our place and role within the larger system. I left feeling more inspired and better equipped with tools for our campus to create real impactful change. 

I am very thankful that I was given the opportunity to participate in this conference. It truly inspired me to continue striving for a better tomorrow, and reminded me that there are thousands of other students out there, just like me, who are fighting the same fight. We may not come from the same background or the same corner of the country, but we are all striving to create a democracy that represents us all and allows every last voice to be heard. “


Responsibilities for National Campaign AmbassaDores include:

  • Attend the annual National Campaign Conference
  • Contribute to the IOP Blog
  • Participate and assist with consortium-wide virtual events throughout the academic year
  • Collaborate with other school Ambassadors on shared projects or awareness campaigns
  • Participate in the Vandy Votes coalition

Other schools in the National Campaign Ambassador consortium include Harvard University, Elon University, University of Chicago, University of Texas and many more!


For more information on the program, please visit the web page.


Please contact Tandra Martin at

Statement of Non-partisanship:The Office of Active Citizenship and Service (OACS) and the Vandy Votes coalition do not support or oppose any candidate for political office. OACS and VandyVotes take no stances on the candidates or their positions.