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Many faculty members will be using this election cycle to enrich their curricula for the upcoming semester.

Credit: Ilana Wurman , Ilana Wurman, Ilana Wurman

The 2016 presidential election is dominating the news cycle, and for some students, it’s also going to dominate their classes.

Many Penn professors intend to take advantage of the election to enrich their curricula for the upcoming semester. Some professors plan to focus their curricula on the election itself, while others plan to use it indirectly as a tool to enhance their lessons in the classroom.

COMM226/PSCI232: Intro. to Political Communication

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communication professor and the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, teaches the course “Introduction to Political Communication” and plans to use the presidential election to exemplify the current state of American political communication.

Students in the course will have multiple assignments relating to the press coverage of the current campaign and will be required to watch the presidential debates. They will be asked to analyze current media coverage, as well as how political press coverage norms have shifted over time.

“The value of taking this course during an election year,” Jamieson said, “is that you get to apply, in real time, the theories that are learned, to see whether or not they actually have explanatory power.”

PSCI182: Contemporary Political Thought

Nancy Hirschmann, a professor of political science and the Director of the Alice Paul Center for research on Gender, Sexuality and Women, will be teaching a course entitled “Contemporary Political Thought.” The course will focus on political theory since 1900.

Although she does not intend to directly utilize the election as a topic in the course, she plans to assign readings to students on a variety of topics such as free speech and economic and reproductive freedom, which will encourage the students “to think about the importance of political participation and how it’s connected to the readings.”

Students in the course will also be required to attend an event at the Alice Paul Center called “Politics on the Edge: Sex/Gender/Race in the 2016 U.S. Elections.” Four scholars will speak about how race, gender and sex have played important roles in the current election.

And some courses are centered around the drama of the election itself.

ENGL159: Writing about the Presidential Election

English professor Dick Polman tailored a pre-existing course to directly address the current presidential election. He said his intention is “to bring the news into the class and bring the class to the news.”

In “Writing about the Presidential Election,” students will be challenged to report on the campaign using different forms of political writing and will treat “the election as a live topic for journalism,” Polman said.

Depending upon the progression of the campaign, students will be asked to complete a variety of journalistic assignments that could include interviewing students, attending and documenting political rallies, and even writing pieces on campaign ads.

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