Sit Jennifer Schmidt down in a room and ask her to talk about politics, and the conversation will span a range of locations and topics.
There's her experience as a staffer in the Statehouse in Topeka. And her time as a legal counselor on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. She has funny stories and amusing anecdotes, and Schmidt, one of two new fellows at Kansas University's Dole Institute of Politics, is hoping to round those up and use them in her study session "Women in Politics: Career Stories."
"As a teacher and a practitioner, the question I got was, How do I get involved?" she said. "How do I do it?"
Schmidt's study group runs from September through mid-October.
So far, Schmidt has been busy visiting classes at KU, trying to drum up interest among students. She said she's already heard from a number of community members and politically active Kansans who want to attend.
"I'm heartened by the interest among people who have found out about this," she said. "We're now three or four generations beyond the people I know, and they're calling, telling me they can't wait to come."
Though she's "the Republican fellow," Schmidt said she was working especially hard to ensure her events appeal to members of both political parties. The Dole Institute always selects one Republican and one Democrat for its fellowship program.
She hopes to provide information about all the possible jobs in politics.
"Part of the reason to do this is to point out that there are a lot of opportunities to change the world without running for president," Schmidt said.
With that said, changing the world by running for president is exactly the topic of Jerry Austin's study group, "Presidential Politics From the Inside." Austin, a political consultant from Cleveland who ran Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign, plans to use the Internet and personal experience to explore what it's like to be a part of a presidential campaign.
"We're going to be participating in the greatest of reality TV shows, which is before us right now: the presidential election," he said.
Austin said his study group, which runs from October to the end of the semester, would examine stories coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire by focusing on political coverage of major newspapers in those state, the Des Moines Register and the New Hampshire Union Leader in Manchester, N.H.
Iowa and New Hampshire are home to the first primary contests in early January or late December.
Austin also said the group would be watching commercials that air in those states through YouTube.
"Having been an insider, I'm going to help them follow what's going on," he said. "For instance, for each candidate, what is your goal in New Hampshire in Iowa? In some cases, it's not to win. It's to come in second or third."
New Dole Institute of Politics fellow Jennifer Schmidt said she has these study sessions planned, with others to be named later. All programs are at 4 p.m. at the Dole Institute.Sept. 5: Jackie Cottrell and Lou Ann Linehan. Both are chiefs of staff for U.S. senators.Sept. 12: Connie Schulz. A Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Her husband is a senator.Sept. 19: Sheila Frahm, a former U.S. senator, briefly, and member of state board of education. She will be joined by other prominent Kansas politicians.Sept. 26: Schmidt said she hoped to identify a pollster for this date.Oct. 3: Karen Marangi and Amy Blankenbiller. Marangi is a Washington, D.C., lobbyist. Blankenbiller is a former lobbyist and now leads the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Another person may be added.Oct. 17: Topic and speakers to be announced.Oct. 24: Jo Ann Davidson, co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
Dole Institute fellow Jerry Austin's schedule is not as firm because his sessions don't start until mid-October. For now, these people will speak from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, beginning Oct. 16.
- Jules Witcover, a former political reporter, columnist and author of several books on politics.
- Peter Brown, assistant Director of the Quinnipiac Poll.
- George Condon, bureau chief for Copley newspaper chain.
- Celinda Lake, president of a polling firm.
- Joe Hallett, political reporter for the Columbus Dispatch.