Presidential Debate volunteers begin orientation process

After being postponed several weeks due to the hurricanes, the Presidential Debate volunteer orientation erupted in full swing two weeks ago, welcoming over 200 volunteers for one of the most extraordinary events that the University of Miami has ever held.

After three months of intensive planning, Laurie Deschryver, director of events at the Office of the President, said that the “faculty and staff and President Shalala are all excited about the upcoming days that will make UM history.”

Dr. Pat Whitley, vice-president of Student Affairs, commended and congratulated the student volunteers who were competitively selected and commented on the unique opportunity available to all students this fall.

Richard Walker, assistant vice-president of Student Affairs and project manager, discussed the volunteer organizational structure of the Presidential Debate.

Student coordinators will be heading up four main groups consisting of production and debate hall, media and voter education, special events and transportation, and hospitality and security. Several student team leaders will be directing various tasks within each group.

With the broad range of opportunities available to student volunteers, ranging from escorting media and politicians and working in the Convocation Center to helping at special events, the most fundamental role of any student, Presidential Debate volunteer or not, is to be a student ambassador to UM.

“This is a great opportunity to interact with a lot of people and learn about politics,” Renee Callan, director of Student Activities and Leadership Programs, said. “Take advantage of attending the events because this is an opportunity that can and should become a key part of your college experience.”

Despite inconveniences faced with parking and security, Margot Winick, director of Media Relations, said that the UM faculty, staff and students are “proud to be selected as the campus to host the debates.”

At the volunteer session, Winick posed possible questions that the 2000 media covering the debate may ask students.

“[It’s important to] express your opinion as a student and show your enthusiasm by answering questions and being helpful and accommodating during the week of the debate,” Winick said.

Sarah Artenoca, assistant vice-president of Media and Community Relations, emphasized the significance of positive and energetic student participation, and said that such an international event has historic importance at the individual and UM community level.

Sporting red polo shirts with the UM logo, student Presidential Debate volunteers will be representing the University in the greatest capacity: as ambassadors not only to the school, but also to the world.

Shelly Garg can be contacted at