Cassie Shirk learned of The Washington Center’s Conventions Seminars as a freshman in 2009. She had to wait until the summer of 2012 to capitalize on the once in a lifetime experience. As she watched from the stands on the final night as the candidate became the official nominee, the wait had certainly paid off.
What college or university did you attend? What was your major?
I went to Point Park University, which is a small liberal arts school located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I majored in broadcast journalism with a minor in political science.
Which convention (site and year) did you attend? What was your work assignment there?
I attended the 2012 Republican National Convention, held in Tampa, Florida. My assignment at the convention was with Talk Radio News Service (now Talk Media News Service). There were two of us assigned there. We were responsible for going out and collecting little snippets of information or interviews that Talk Radio News Service could use on their streaming service. We walked around and explored events or meetings to see what attendees were doing during the convention, why those events and meetings — like Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry — were happening, and why they were important.
The most unforgettable experience for me was the opportunity to attend the final night of speeches during the convention...to be able to participate in that was truly incredible because the final night was when candidate Mitt Romney took the stage and gave his speech.Cassie Shirk
What excited you about participating in the Convention Seminar? Why did you choose to make this part of your college experience?
When I first started at Point Park, I had one professor who had been involved with The Washington Center. He knew I had a pretty big interest in politics and from the beginning, he had made the convention seminars that TWC held known to me. I knew that it was something I had to partake in from the first time he mentioned them. For years, I waited for the 2012 National Conventions Seminars. I couldn’t have been more honored to participate. It was one of the first things I knew about when I entered college and I looked forward to it the whole time.
What was the most remarkable experience you had during the convention?
The most unforgettable experience for me was the opportunity to attend the final night of speeches during the convention. We weren’t guaranteed any tickets to any of nights of the speeches, so to be able to participate in that was truly incredible because the final night was when candidate Mitt Romney took the stage and gave his speech. There were a couple of fellow interns and I who made it, and to be honest I can’t remember how we acquired the tickets. To be in the convention center and to feel that energy and excitement in the crowd was truly unforgettable. We were not on the floor, rather up in the stands. I will never forget being able to hear all the people who spoke before him and then the way he spoke was...that whole night was something I’ll never forget.
What was your most valuable takeaway from the Convention Seminar?
There are probably two answers. One, those first days that were strictly academic focused. To have learned the history of conventions and the background on how conventions started, what they are now and the purpose of conventions, as well as having met so many other people, some of whom I still keep in contact with today, really enhanced the experience. Another thing is that these events aren’t just thrown together. We got in those first few days to tour the actual convention site and to see all the event planning, all the security, everything that they do to put the stage together. The second would be how interesting it is to see all these different people come from across the country, with their different backgrounds, come together for that week. That was incredible.
What are you doing now and how does it relate to your convention experience?
Having the opportunity to meet and connect with different congressmen and senators and staffers at the convention, even if it was only chatting with them for a few minutes about the work that they do, really sparked something in me. In my eyes, politics and government are different, but are very much related. I have never worked a political campaign, but I have had the opportunity to work for two governors. After my internship I moved to Harrisburg to work for Governor Corbett’s office and I currently work for Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. I’ve held a few positions within his administration and I currently work with the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Why would you recommend a current student participate in the Convention Seminar?
I would absolutely, 100% recommend any student who has the opportunity to participate in the convention seminar do so. I really view it as a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially in your college career. The opportunities while you’re there, not just the first academic week where you learn and understand why you are there, but to experience over the second week the energy and meet people that you hear about or see on TV is special. There’s nothing like it out there. It’s definitely something everybody should take advantage of.