Want a realistic perspective on how a political campaign is run? Just ask someone who’s been elected.
To give his students the inside track on running for public office and, more importantly, serving constituents once you’re elected, Taewoo Kang, Ph.D., assistant professor of political communication, recently welcomed Town of Colonie Supervisor Peter Crummey to speak to his Introduction to Political Communication class.
Siena is located within the Town of Colonie (their offices are located right across Route 9 from campus) and works regularly with the town on matters of permitting, public safety, taxation and infrastructure. Crummey spoke about his decades of public service as a Colonie town judge and court administrator, and his campaign for town supervisor. He was sworn in to that office in January 2022.
“I was thrilled to address and interact with the vibrant Siena students in Dr. Kang’s class,” said Crummey. “Good elected officials are often skilled orators, but not all are skilled listeners. To truly understand and connect with voters, and ultimately constituents, it is best to be both. Hopefully, our classroom discussion will inspire some of Dr. Kang’s students to consider a future in public service.”
Kang’s class introduces students to the theory and practice of political communication, with a focus on the role of media in political campaigns, press-government relations, and policy making. He also emphasizes methods for analyzing political communication in the contexts of American politics and global affairs. In addition to Crummey, he has also invited Times Union editor Casey Seiler, News10 producer Ryan Mott, two New York State Assembly staffers, local activist Libby Post, Siena’s own president – and former Congressmember – Chris Gibson, Ph.D., and Siena communications team members Kelly O’Donnell and Lisa Witkowski to share their on-the-job experiences.
“I think students learn these concepts best when both the academic perspective of political communication as well as the experiences of experts in the field are presented,” said Kang. “In political science, particularly in the subfield of communication, there can be a gap between academic theory and actual practice.”
He explained that it’s important to explore what messaging works from a strategic standpoint, and how winning an election and ultimately serving American democracy may involve different tactics and motivations at different points in the political process.
“We also explore the importance of both journalists and politicians creating the right kind of environment in which to discuss and understand substantive political issues,” he said.
His 25 students are majoring in political science or communications (or both), and agree that hearing from guest speakers who are active in these fields is a great way to learn.
“Professor Kang recognizes that the college experience is not only about learning, but also applying what we learn,” said Nathan Mattison ‘24. “Using interactive projects and inviting guest speakers gives us great perspective into what our future prospects are, current trends in the political and communications industries, and what jobs we would and wouldn't be interested in.”
Mattison said Crummey’s bipartisan approach to local politics is “very reassuring and inspiring.”
“The distinctions he created in class between local and national politics made our community seem much closer together and interconnected in ideology and goals than is typically portrayed by national media,” he said. “Having a local politician come into our class and tell us how the town works, and how local politics works, cut through the mystique of being in ‘the room where it happens.’”
Christina Peppy ’24 said she appreciated the pride and enthusiasm with which Crummey presented on his position.
“It was exciting to hear his experience in campaigning, as he has run before and is currently running a campaign right now,” she said. “It was beneficial to see how our discussions in class are applied to actual campaigns and what strategies were used and are successful.”