The University of Florida’s Graduate Program in Political Campaigning is a two-year program of study leading to a Master of Arts degree in political science, with a certificate attesting to the specialization in campaigning. It is designed to provide students who want a career in politics or public service with
- technical skills related to strategy formation, message development and communication, resource management, polling, and other key aspects of professional politics in the 1990s;
- an understanding of why certain campaign actions and public strategies succeed whereas others fail; and
- a sensitivity to the democratic context of American politics, and to the notion that candidates, officeholders, and their advisers have obligations to society that extend beyond the short-term goal of winning a particular election or enacting a favorable piece of legislation.
Students in the Program take a variety of classes, involving both traditional political science (topics such as public opinion, voting and elections, political participation, survey research) as well as applied politics (campaign strategy and tactics, issue advocacy), the latter being taught by experienced professional consultants and augmented by frequent guest lectures and workshops. They also may take elective courses on such topics as political communication, fundraising, speechwriting, and the policy process, and are required to complete an internship during the summer between their first and second years.
From an entering class of just two in 1985, the Political Campaigning Program today has roughly 12-15 students enrolled at any given time. Although the number of applications has risen over the years and some additional growth is anticipated in the future, it is the department’s desire that the Program remain what it has always been – a unique and highly personalized educational experience in which students receive a degree of personal attention and regular contact with instructors that they are unlikely to get at another school.
Alumni of the Program have experienced remarkable success since graduating from the University of Florida. Their ranks include, for example, U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL, also currently chair of the Democratic National Committee) and Thomas Rooney (R-FL), state representative John Tobia (R-Melbourne Beach), David Beattie (president of Hamilton Campaigns, a full-service consulting firm with clients nationwide), Shannon McAleavey (former vice president of government relations for Disney World), David Rancourt (former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jeb Bush and founding partner of Southern Strategy Group, a lobbying firm in Tallahassee), Jay Payne (vice president of creative services for Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, a leading Washington-area media consulting firm), Jon Anderson (founder and president of Mad Dog Mail, a direct mail firm with clients in several states), Kolby Peterson (director of polling for one of the major AFL-CIO unions), and many others.
The Political Campaigning Program is not an easy one, and we are looking for quality students. Those who succeed have an excellent opportunity to make the kinds of contacts that will help them to get started in their professional careers. Prospective students who have questions or want additional information should feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org