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WFU freshmen explore their role in the 2008 election

August 5, 2008

Each year, incoming freshmen at Wake Forest University are assigned a reading dealing with a thought-provoking issue, and required to attend a lecture related to that issue by a high-profile speaker during orientation.  Reflecting the record high level of young voter activism in the 2008 election cycle, this year’s orientation speaker and reading assignment relate to college students and political engagement. 

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a nationally known scholar and commentator on politics and the media, will talk to Wake Forest freshmen at 8 p.m. Aug. 22 in Wait Chapel about trends in the 2008 election cycle and why they matter.  Jamieson is director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, co-founder of, and an author, co-author or editor of 15 books, including “Dirty Politics: Deception, Distraction and Democracy.”  She is a commentator on a variety of television news programs and is a regular guest on PBS’ “Bill Moyers Journal.”

In preparation for Jamieson’s talk, incoming students are required to read "Millennials Talk Politics:  A Study of College Student Political Engagement,” published by The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).  Wake Forest was among the dozen colleges and universities participating in that study.

"Given the upcoming election, we wanted to bring someone to campus who could speak to the political transformations taking place, particularly as they relate to college-aged students,” says James Ford, associate professor of religion and chair of the Orientation and Lower Division Advising Committee.  “Dr. Jamieson was an obvious choice since she is perhaps the leading analyst of contemporary political trends.”

Katy Harriger, professor and chair of the political science department, agrees.  “Young people are major consumers of information through the ‘new media’ represented on the Internet, and Jamieson’s recent work has focused on understanding this venue and how it affects political communication,” she says.  Harriger and Jill McMillan, professor emerita of communication, recently published the results of their study on college students and civic engagement in their book, “Speaking of Politics:  Preparing College Students for Democratic Citizenship through Deliberative Dialogue.”

James Ford’s letter to new students concerning the reading assignment is online at  There is also a link on that page to download “Millennials Talk Politics.”

Press Contacts:

Audrey Fannin
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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