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Milwaukee, WI and Charlotte, NC, USA

Program Description

For student journalists and political junkies, it’s an experience of a lifetime against the backdrop of one of the biggest stages in national politics. You’ll bring to life for readers, viewers and listeners in Virginia the 2020 Democratic and Republican national conventions — including the policy issues, personalities and behind-the-scenes details. You’ll interview and cover speeches by some of the biggest names in American politics. And you’ll sharpen your multimedia storytelling skills on deadline while getting your work published or broadcast for people in Virginia to gain critical insights about this part of the American democratic process.

The two major parties will nominate their presidential tickets at these conventions: the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee from July 13-16 and the Republican National Convention in Charlotte from Aug. 24-27. Specifically, you’ll follow the Virginia delegations at both conventions, getting reactions and pulling back the curtain on the national political conventions’ pageantry. As part of this course, we’ll also explore how politicians and journalists interact and analyze how the American political process works.

Serving as multimedia journalists, you’ll write news articles and/or produce video and audio pieces from both conventions that will be shared with professional news organizations across Virginia. Stories will be made available to the more than 100 Virginia news outlets that subscribe to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Capital News Service. In addition, the program will encourage direct partnerships with other local news organizations that want student multimedia journalists to serve as correspondents at the conventions.

Info Session for Covering the National Conventions:

Date: Tuesday, Sept. 24th | 5-7 p.m.

Place: Harrison Hall, Room 118 (Light snacks will be available.)

Location Description

The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, hosts the Democratic National Convention from July 13-16, while Charlotte, North Carolina, will serve as the location for the Republican National Convention from Aug. 24-27. Attending and covering both parties’ conventions will be required as part of this program. The conventions offer much more than the speeches that take place each evening inside the arenas. For instance, the state delegations hold breakfast events each day that draw prominent speakers and newsmakers. And other events during the day offer rare glimpses into the campaign process and the details of public policy — all of which are ripe for ambitious, curious journalists to cover.

You’ll work together as a team — and individually — to help inform voters about the major themes, issues and processes that converge at these conventions when the major parties formally select their presidential nominees. To help us better understand this part of the American democratic process, students will have the option and opportunity to attend local and state delegate selection conventions for both parties in Virginia during the spring that will help you get to know some of the Virginia delegates you’ll be covering in Milwaukee and Charlotte. You also might produce preview articles or audio/video pieces in advance of each convention.

At a time of intense interest in American politics and the role of media, you’ll have the opportunity to explore first-hand how it all works and interview people inside and outside of the process.


Ryan Alessi | | School of Media Arts and Design


Accommodations will be provided for students either at area college/university housing or hotels. Students will likely have to share rooms.

Students will be provided a weekly meal stipend to cover meals that aren’t included with housing arrangements, such as continental breakfasts at hotels.

Additional Items to Consider

The program will provide transportation in a university van from JMU to Milwaukee on Friday, July 10, and leave to return to JMU on Saturday, July 18. (Students can provide their own transportation at their own cost to meet in Milwaukee by 2 p.m. Saturday, July 11, and return after noon, Friday, July 18.) We will then reconvene at JMU on Friday, Aug. 21, to travel to Charlotte and will return by the evening of Friday, Aug. 28. Again, students can arrange their own transportation to Charlotte by 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22 and from Charlotte after noon, Friday, Aug. 28. During each convention, the university van will serve as transportation from our housing accommodations to the convention site each day. Students are required to have and bring cell phones and encouraged to bring a laptop and any personal reporting equipment, although video cameras, tripods and digital audio recording equipment will be provided.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

SMAD majors, political communication and upper-level political science students are strongly preferred. SMAD 210 "News Reporting and Writing" and/or SMAD 309 "Video Journalism" as well as SMAD/SCOM/POSC 472 "Media and Politics" are recommended.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short Essay 
  • Interview with Program Director may be required
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU and first semester transfer students

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

Program Closed.

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


SMAD 305: Special Topics in Media Production: Covering national political conventions (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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