Open Forum Webinar

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Title: Open Forum Webinar
Panelists: Michael Cornfield, Ph.D., Acting Program Director, Political Management Program, Miguel Caldeira, Current Student; Hanna Lappalainen, Enrollment Advisor; Bobby Dhillon, Host/Moderator
Subjects: In this webinar, our panelists provide you with in-depth information on The George Washington University’s Political Management online program, program concentrations, learning outcomes, how online learning works, the student experience, and answering your questions.



Hello everyone. Welcome to the George Washington University’s Political Management Online Webinar. My name is Bobby, and I will be your moderator for today.

Before we begin I would like to go over logistics of the presentation, address some commonly asked questions. All participants are in listen only mode. To ask questions type your questions into the chat box on the right hand side of your screen and hit enter. All questions will be answered in the order asked.

At the end of the webinar you will receive a copy of these slides and a recording of the webinar.

Now let’s get over to our panelists. Your panelists today are Michael Cornfield. Michael Cornfield is a political scientist, studies and advises on campaign politics, public affairs and the internet.

He is the author of two books on the subject, Politics Moves Online, Campaigning and the Internet, and the Civic Web, online politics and democratic values.

Cornfield currently serves as acting director of the political management program. He has been an adjunct professor at the graduate school of political management since 1994. He helped founded semester and Washington Program for visiting undergraduates and its institution for politics, democracy and the internet.

Miguel Caldeira has a master degree in communications studies. He has worked as a TV reporter in conflict, post-conflict in developing countries like Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as a journalist specializing in political issues. In 2006 Miguel moved to one of the most recent democracies in the world East Timor, a small island near Australia.

In East Timor he worked for the United Nations agency UNDP as a media advisor, media trainer, and project manager for media development project aiming to support local journalist. He was recently recruited by UNICEF and moved to New York to work as a communication specialist.

Hanna Lappalainen is an enrolment advisor working on behalf of the graduate school of political management. She walks new students through the entire admissions and financial aid process, making it easy for them to get started and pursue their degree.

So let’s get started. Today’s agenda we will be discussing the George Washington University Political management program. The program concentrations, what you will learn in the program, how you can advance the program, the online learning experience, the student experience, admissions and funding, and of course answering your questions which you can do by entering it in on the chat box on your right hand side.

What I’m going to be doing at this moment, I’m going to be handing the presentation over to Michael Cornfield. Michael take it away.

Thank you Bobby, and then all of you for joining us this afternoon or morning wherever you happen to be.

Let me tell you a little bit about the political management school, because it’s unique. The graduate school of Political Management was created in New York as a standalone entity in 1987. So we are just starting our silver anniversary celebration. And if you come into this school you will be invited to some of the events both virtually and perhaps if you can come to Washington live during our silver anniversary celebration.

The idea behind the school is that applied politics, campaign politics is now sufficiently complicated and lucrative to warrant having a nonpartisan school devoted entirely to teaching people how to campaign for office. And how to campaign to get legislation or experiential knowledge.

The school moved to Washington D.C. in 1994 because frankly that’s where the critical mass of campaign specialists reside. If you wanted to learn film you would want to want to hook up in Los Angeles. If you wanted to learn about finance you would go to New York, well we’re in Washington for the obvious reason.

We offer you a Master’s Degree from one of the top 50 universities in the United States. Its delivered fully online as you can see, and it’s 36 credit hours, which is to say 12 courses taken in succession. And what we teach you in three words before we get to the rest of the words on the screen are concepts, skills, and connections. You gain a comprehensive understanding of campaign management is, and as it applies to lobbying and government relations, issues managemtn and advocacy and you can see the rest of it.

In other words campaigns are complex, multi-faceted operations. You need a strategy. You need a message. You need money. You need supporters. You need data. You need a candidate or a spokesperson. You need an organization. You need to negotiate with opponents. And you need to understand the laws. And the business of managing campaigns that are run by candidates for office or by interest groups, or trade associations, or political parties, or NGOs whoever wants to go into public communications to make appeals for public support to help them achieve their campaign goals, these require a specialized knowledge that we teach you. So you learn how to influence the process, be successful and make a difference.

We do rely on some theories, but we are not here as an academic institution entirely to teach you how to teach others, or to teach you how to do research. When you do writing for us it’s in the form of memos, strategy memos, op bids, videos, the forms the campaigners use in the real world.

So we’re a blend again of theoretical knowledge across disciplines, and practical knowledge.

When you come to the graduate school of political management, you’ll take a couple of courses everyone have to take, and I’ll talk about that in a minute. We wanted to get the idea that you have two basic options. You can concentrate on electoral politics, election campaigns, that’s the most famous kind of campaigns. Anyone who runs for office at any level from city council and school board, to President of the United States. And you learn how to put a campaign team together.

You learn what targeting entails and how to operate with the press which today improves bloggers as well as reporters who work at journalism organizations. You learn leadership skills. How to keep you supporters who are on staff and who are volunteers motivated. And you learn some of the advance skills that are important quantitative data, and statistical operations and algorithm to work databases, and to micro-target, which is to identify those people in particular segments of a population who are key to the difference between winning and losing.

If you go over and decide to concentrate on advocacy you’ll be focusing on state legislatures, congress, on the executive branch, even the judicial branch. Decision-making bodies in government who are campaigned to in addition to being lobbied, and you’ll learn the difference, on public policy issues.

You’ll also learn crisis communications. There are times when corporations or unions, or government bodies are caught in a breaking news scandal and they need to campaign to restore their reputation. You’ll learn how to reach out to stakeholder groups and to the general public so that those who are making decisions can see that you have grass roots support.

We have a specialized course in State level advocacy, and you’ll learn social media analytics and persuasive skills. How to tweet, how to put up videos, how to manage the conversations and competition that arises in the social media which is our newest venue for public debate.

Here’s how we’ve got the sequence of courses structured. In the first course which is called, Fundamentals of Political Management, you learn how to apply history to current situations. We start you off where many people start when they’re learning about politics and where many of you no doubt have already been. Which is to say absorbing political information through the news media.

And then we show you that while the news media accounts of politics are valuable that there’s another more strategic way of looking at the same events as they unfold. And one of the things that applies whether you go in to election campaigns or advocacy campaigns, is that there’s usually a precedent somewhere in history where political managers faced similar situations to what you’re facing. And we teach you how to research those historical cases, and apply them properly to the case at hand, which is what you’re involved in.

Then in Phase 2 you take courses where you learn specialized skills and what I call the 4M’s, which are the earth, fire, air, and water if you will of all campaigns. Every campaign needs money, every campaign needs a message, every campaign which is the public rational for why people who get that message should support your campaign as compared with somebody else’s. Mobilization. How to get people to run out either to vote or to demonstrate, or a boycott, or sign a petition.

And finally measurement, measurement used to be just polling. Then it became polling and focus groups. Then it became polling, and focus groups, and social media data analytics. So that’s an illustration of how with each passing year the basics of putting a campaign together are getting so complicated that campaigns hire people to manage.

Right now just in Washington D.C. alone lobbying, lower case lobbying which includes the old fashion lobbying that has a bad reputation of hanging out in the corridor, and buttonholing legislatures. But in the modern connotation which also includes mobilizing public support and dealing with the media, lobbying is now a $9-billion industry just in Washington D.C. it was half that five years ago. That doesn’t mean it’s going to keep doubling, but it’s a growing business.

Similarly as you’ve no doubt noticed, spending on campaigns to office is growing and growing quickly. This cycle, the 2012 cycle in the United States which is a presidential year, somewhere between $4 and $5-billion will be spent on campaigns.

So when you come to the graduate school of Political Management, you are preparing yourself to take positions within an industry that was at $5-billion ten years ago, and is not at $15-billion, and is going to continue to grow. Because things are not getting simpler, they’re getting more complicated and people need specialist to help them in the complex art of managing a campaign.

The last phase of your education at the graduate school of Politics Management, you’ll learn about the ethical dilemmas that political managers have to face. You’ll learn advance strategy and you’ll have the opportunity to create, research, write and present a sustained piece of practical campaign research which we call the independent study.

What do you get for your money, why should you come here? Several reasons, in addition to the content that I mentioned, we also help you identify your political aptitudes. There’s a lot of discussion that goes on, there’s a lot of reading that will provoke self-reflection.

And you’ll be open to career paths and opportunities that you hadn’t really considered before. And as you do you’ll figure out how to upgrade and refine your resume so that you can get a job doing something that you’re good at, which usually mean something that you enjoy doing.

And that’s what makes us happiest is when you can take your passions for public affairs and develop skills, and master concepts, and make connections so that you can do something that is fulfilling.

I mentioned the connections, you are going to be introduced to a network of people, not just your classmates who you’ll know best, but an alumni group of thousands of people who are doing similar things to you. And when you put a campaign together on behalf of a client, or a candidate, or an organization, you will discover that most campaigns are adhoc creations. They start at zero depending on what the issue is, and what the situation in, and you put together teams of specialists.

And you’ll be one of those specialists, and you’ll know other specialists who can help you. And they’ll be situated in state capitals, and foreign capitals around the world. So you’ll be able to know how to put a campaign together, and who would belong on our campaign.

The last bullet point here is that the campaign life can be very exciting, but excitement is the flip side of anxiety producing. Because campaigns start and end, and the ending can be rather abrupt. And whether you win your campaign or lose your campaign, at the end of a campaign that forces you to make changes in what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with.

So one of the things we council you on and teach you is to move up and down within an organization, and how to move side to side in an organization. How to break out of an organization and take the entrepreneurial route and open your own shop, if that’s what you want to do.

So that’s the sort of overview of program. And I’ll give it back to Bobby.


Thank you very much Michael. What we’re going to do right now, is we’re going to conduct a poll. So well give the attendees an opportunity to give their thoughts.

So the first poll that we’re looking to conduct is, what are you looking to accomplish after completing this program. Is it Career advancement, A new career, or to continue your academic studies?

So just take a moment to fill in the poll and we will keep the poll open throughout the presentation itself. So as we move along Michael, I will hand the presentation back over to you to discuss online learning.

You may not be familiar with what learning at a graduate level entails through digital media. Maybe you do but we’ve decided to devote a good part of this webinar to just showing you what the mechanics are. And then with our former student, what life is like when you’re in the graduate school program online.

The basic approach is as follows, you meat other people, you meet your instructors, and you meet your facilitators, that’s the equivalent of a TA. And you take one course at a time for six weeks, and you’re responsible for participating in weekly discussions, completing assignments, and doing group work week by week.

And as you do this it’s forcing you to interact with people, and in some cases take the lead for a team to complete an assignment.

It’s a seven-day a week commitment, that doesn’t mean you have to spend every hour of those seven days obviously. And one of the advantages of doing this online is that many things are asynchronous, you don’t have to show up at a particular time, there are exceptions to that. So you have the flexibly to work on assignments and fit it into the rhythms of your daily life whatever that entails.

We’re just going to do another poll at the moment just before we proceed. The next poll that we’re looking to conduct is, have you taken an online course before yes or not. What are your top concerns about studying online?

What I’m going to do at this moment is open up the poll for everyone to provide their answers on how they feel about the online learning. So I’ll just open it up for you.

And as we do that I will hand the presentation back over to yourself Michael, and I’ll open it up to Miguel Caldeira to discuss the online classroom.

Take it away.

I’m sure that by being perceptive people you’re noticing that by giving you online poll questions is we’re easing you into the kinds of interactions that you would be making in part of your online education with us.

This is a screen shot of the main page of the GSPM and [Ambernet?] online interface which is called MOODLE. Maybe Bobby or Hanna can tell us where that name came from because I don’t know the answer to that.

But this is what it looks like, this is where you would enter your user name and password to get into the educational site.

Here is what the homepage for an online course looks like. This is one of our core courses, required courses, communications elements 6203. And as you can see there are seven stripes. One gives you the equivalent of a syllabus, and other descriptions of course essentials. The syllabus itself is in the dark blue box up above.

Then week by week what the main topic is, and Miguel will tell you how to work your way week by week through course interface. And then you’ll notice down the right side a list of resources. And since this is about communication and so much of communication as I talked about earlier, begins and sometimes ends with media coverage. You can see that there are lists of articles and commentaries from the New York Times and Washington Post.

Let’s go to the next slide, and I’m going to turn it over to Miguel.

Thank you very much Professor Cornfield, and welcome to everyone it’s a pleasure to join you today in this webinar. Basically this online discussion board is the introduction to a network of people that Professor Cornfield was talking about. This is basically our classroom.

So we have all the topics that we are supposed to study, and in here in this place we basically share our knowledge and learn from other students. So I would say that this is my favorite space on MOODLE, I also don’t know what MOODLE stands for but it is for sure part of my life now.

We have several discussions during the week, and it’s actually very much interactive method. I thought initially by learning online that I would not have the chance to learn from others and to really get in touch with them, but that’s not the case. I was studying abroad and I started to study when I was in Timor thousands of miles away from Washington. But I made good friends, and we learned a lot about each other, and what we know, and what others know. And sometimes you learn more by reading the posts from colleagues than reading the books.

So it’s basically the most interactive part of our online course happens here in these different discussion boards. We also have the chats with the facilitator or the professor but those are a bit more formal. In here is really a classroom where we can say whatever we think, were we can share whatever we learn and whatever we read.

After studying, after sharing, after reading we are supposed to also have exams and quizzes, and we really take them seriously. It’s really an opportunity to demonstrate that we have new ideas, we have fresh ideas, we understood what the concepts were during the week and then we are evaluated.

I remember one quiz that I had, it was one of my favorite courses, and I was really excited about the quiz. And I interrupted my day of work because I wanted to, to do this exam. And I have a great grade so it was worthwhile to do it. And it’s basically a test in a certain point of our course we will evaluate us and we’ll have the chance to demonstrate what we’ve learned so far.

Back to you Bobby.

Wonderful, thank you very much both Michael and Miguel for discussing the online classroom. Now what I’m going to do is I’m going to discuss the student experience and with that I’m going to hand it back over to Miguel Caldeira who is a current student with the program itself.

And Miguel a few questions a few commonly asked questions that we always get is, why did you decide to enroll in the program. And what do you enjoy about the program itself? So take it away.

I was working in Timor, and when you introduced me you explained that I have already a Masters course before. But I was managing a project and actually one of the advisors that I recruited was a George Washington University professor at the time. At the same time I got a proposal to manage or support managing a campaign in Timor. I realized I didn’t have enough knowledge or the skills to do it, and I’m quite honest. I basically start making some research, didn’t get the job, but I made some research and I decided to enroll. So it was basically for professional reasons.

But also because I realized that all the online courses that I found were not as interesting as this one. Not only because of the reputation but the professors, the way the course was prepared it was 100% online and I was so far away from Washington it would be hard for me to come here.

So I decided to enroll and it was really worthwhile. It completely changed my life. I’m passing to the second question, what did I enjoy the most the program. I enjoyed very much the independence that it gives to all students. The interaction that we get from it, as professor Cornfield said before it’s not about reading theories but it’s about concepts, and it’s adapting itself.

And we see throughout the program that the professors are not only up to date on what’s happening around the world, but the experience that we have we are always discussing themes that are in the agenda. Of course we also study [Sunsu?] and Machiavelli and so on as background to understand what’s going on and to prepare what challenges we are facing in this world that is permanently changing.

So the independence, the discipline, the teachers that are amazing, and the students. And quickly I would like to share one example, I was in Timor and there was in the ethics course we were studying or we were discussing negative ads. And we were actually discussing one specific ad. And in one of the discussion boards one of the students said actually the congressman that prepared this ad is a person with whom I work right now.

So it was unbelievable for me that I was on the other side of the world, I was discussing an ad, that was presented by the professor, but one of the students knew the person and was working on it. So it was really, really special for me to be able to meet this amazing network of people as professor Cornfield said.

Wonderful, thank you very much for sharing your experiences Miguel. A couple other commonly asked questions that we get is, How do you balance school and other obligations, and what has surprised you the most about online learning?

Miguel: This is a question that makes sense, and actually I ask this question to myself before enrolling. I must be honest, it’s tough. We really need to have discipline, and this program will be part of our life. So if we are really, really committee to go through it and to study and so in, it’s possible.

And it’s rewarding at the end of the day. I got married during the program, I changed from one country to another, I’m in the US now. My work is not the same. So my life completely changed not because of the course only, but it helped.

But with discipline and knowing what the priorities are it’s possible and its rewarding. Prepare yourselves for changes in your life, but at the same time you’ll be so excited about being part of the discussions that it will be a positive and a very rewarding part of your new life.

What surprises me the most about the online learning, I have the chance actually to go to Washington to visit the University and to meet the professors. And I thought it would be a completely different experience for me. I never had the chance to take any online course before, and it was more interesting. I studied as much as I did in university, but it was a modern course. And we spend most of the days in front of our computers.

And to have the chance of a university giving us the opportunity of doing something that we do most of the day social networking and so on, and learning about it, that was what surprised me the most. I was able to study in a university, a renowned university, and using tools that I use every single day. And I know much more now, much more now than I knew before enrolling in the course.

Wonderful thank you very much Miguel for sharing your experiences with the program.

What we’re going to do right now, is were’ going to hand it over to admissions and funding. And we have Hanna Lappalainen who is the enrolment advisor for the program itself. So Hanna is going to discuss the admission requirements.

Take it away Hanna.

Thank you Bobby. This is Hanna and I’m not sure what MOODLE means either actually it’s just a learning platform just like blackboards. For the admissions most important thing and the first thing you should do is speak to an enrolment advisor because they will be able to assist you all the way through to registration.

The application process is relatively straightforward. It is all web based and the only things we need by mail is the official transcripts. And some universities now provide escripts which are electronic official transcripts, so we do accept those.

The requirements for the application are pretty basic as you can see in the list here. Three letters of recommendation are needed. Typically the school asks for one professional, one academic, and the third one to be either or. We do have a lot of students in the program that are more mature and haven’t been in school for a long time, so in that case you can replace the academic recommendation with a professional one so you don’t have to worry about the academic one if you haven’t been in school for a while.

The statement of purpose should really describe your motivation, why you’ve chosen the program, and what your future goals are. And it’s about 250 to 500 words. The Bachelor’s degree, I know it does say 3.0, however the admissions committee does have some flexibility, and each student is evaluated on an individual basis. And they don’t also only look at the GPA they look at the rest of the application package, your recommenders, your professional experience, etc. So even if your GPA is slightly below 3.0 don’t hesitate to call an enrolment advisor.

We do also have testing requirements for the program, and there is three ways of meeting it. We accept the GRE the graduate record exam, and it’s the general test and there’s three categories, and you should score above the 30 percentile in each of those categories.

Some students can apply for a GRE waiver and it is an application process. And basically to qualify to apply for the GRE waiver students need to have at least three years of relevant professional, fulltime managerial experience, and a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

And the only thing that’s not mentioned here is the LSAT. We do also accept the LSAT and the score needs to be 150 or higher.

Here’s the tuitions and fees. Basically the program is 12 courses or 36 credits. It’s $1,345 per credit hour and the 2 year program is $48,420.

Funding options there are quite a few. Again speak to your enrolment advisor because they can let you know what forms you need to fill out and submit depending on the type of benefits you’re applying for. Although some students have employer sponsored tuition assistance, typically most of students don’t get reimbursed until they successfully pass a course by their employer. So at that point you may want to consider applying for the federal aid student loan, and then when your employer does reimburse you, you can pay down on loans.

FASA basically at the graduate level it’s not the same as undergrad so you are just applying for the loan and it’s not a need base situation. And again your enrolment advisor will provide you with all the links and links to the form that you need to apply for the loan.

For the military students there’s a great deal of support, one of the things you need to do is order your certificate of eligibility to find out exactly what kind of benefits you’re eligible for. GW Vets office will need that certificate in order to be able to process your military benefits. And again ask your enrolment advisor and they will walk you through the process.

Thank you very much for covering the admission requirements Hanna. What we’re going to do right now is we’re going to open up our third and final poll. Our poll questions are, did you enjoy today’s webinar session, so please provide your comments.

Also what are some key tools that you use in obtaining information about political management would it be social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked in Google plus, the newspaper, internet news, television or radio? So take a moment to put in those answers and we will keep the poll open.

Now we will be open to taking any questions from the attendees that attended today. We did receive some questions throughout the process itself. The first question that we have, I believe Hanna if you can go ahead and answer this question. What are my options if I want to attend online classes for the first year and then decide to move to on campus classes?

Good question. George Washington allows students to transfer once from online to on campus, or on campus to online throughout the program. So if you choose to let’s say transfer on campus or online, make sure you’re able to keep the schedule. On campus the students attend two nights a week, so if you do want to switch it’s really important to speak to your student services advisor.

Your student services advisor will be helping you with that transition. It’s pretty much seamless, there is no application process.

Wonderful thank you very much for that. Another question that we have is, is the education obtained in the program immediately applicable and how does an election year impact the scope of education? Perhaps maybe Michael can speak to that.

Many of the professors will construct assignments and choose topics that are in the news. Being at the school during part or all of an election cycle, can make a difference. In addition some of the professors ill encourage you to draw on your current work experience if you’re in a campaign situation.

I am in charge of the independent studies right now, and many students, I would say even most students, choose a topic for independent research that flows right out of their current, or recent work experience. And so you’re able to build on your practical experiences and achieve things for your job while you are engaged in your education.

Wonderful, thank you for that. Another question that we have is one of the top concerns mentioned by attendees was interaction between students and faculty?

Miguel and Michael can you share your experience.

Even if you are far, far away from Washington like I was, the university not only the professors and facilitators they really do whatever they can to make us feel close to the university, and to all the advantages of being involved with such a renowned university. So from the opportunities that arise and I’ll give you just one example. If I’m not mistaken my first year I started receiving and being part of a network that exist for alumni of GWU, and I receive emails with job vacancies that exist in Washington. I never applied, its real interesting because we are knowing what ‘s going on, what is needed, and also that we are part of this network.

And there is as professor Cornfield said before, we are talking about an industry that is growing, and we really notice that. There is demands for specialists and now we are part of the offer and what they are looking for. So I would say that GWU is besides a university, a very renowned and important entry point for this billion-dollar industry that professor Cornfield was talking about.

I also had the chance as I said when I moved to New York, to visit the university to the workshop, and I actually had the chance to participate in two sessions in the classroom, in campus. And it was also very, very exciting to meet all my colleagues, and also some professors that I have worked with.

And then we kept in touch, and that’s really, really fascinating and I’m glad I moved here.

All I would add is that GW and Ambernet together we keep track of all interactions and the extent of interactions. And students evaluate their interactions with their instructors and their facilitators, and we monitor performance. And when someone is not performing well we point that out to them and we show them the data, and we work with them to either improve their performance or we look for alternative people to fill those roles, because we take interaction very, very seriously. It is absolutely crucial to the success of the program.

Wonderful, thank you very much for that both Miguel and Michael. Question for Miguel, what does an average week look like for students enrolled in an online program?

My weeks change dramatically. So from producing assignments in my honeymoon, to not having internet access for three of four days in Timor. It happened to me too in New York where everything is so easy. So it changed.

Basically in my honeymoon I was going to internet cafes and downloading all the information or copying all the information for the week and studying, and submitting the assignments. Usually we have around three to four assignments per week, but they are not-, if we distribute the work throughout the week it’s perfectly manageable. And again it’s a matter of discipline.

We also have the discussion boards, but that is so exciting that I don’t even count with it, because we are talking about two to three paragraphs of sharing whatever we want, or asking questions.

But I would say that if somebody studies either one hour per day, or an hour and a half it’s enough. Or if you don’t have that chance if you concentrate a bit more on weekends that is usually when we have to submit the assignments.

I would say that I study seven, eight hours per week. But then also purchase the materials quite in advance. So the books that are required for each course, if we purchase them and we are informed about the materials in advance , so if we purchase them and start reading them in advance, that also helps a great deal.

And again it’s a matter of also being up to day on what’s going on. We are discussing so many occasions themes that we discuss at home, with our families and so on. It’s just a matter of applying the knowledge that we have in the classroom to discuss these things.

So it’s perfectly manageable as long as we adapt out life and we have discipline enough to be successful.

Wonderful thank you very much Miguel. A question for Michael, is a degree from the online version of the school completely equal to the one obtained on campus at the George Washington University?

The experience is slightly different but in terms of reputation and credibility, and standing within the political marketplace, yes they’re equal.

Thank you very much.