A Century in the Making: NH Community Colleges Launch Series of Candidate Forums and Special Events Devoted to NH Presidential Primary

A Century in the Making: NH Community Colleges Launch Series of Candidate Forums and Special Events Devoted to NH Presidential Primary

Civic Engagement Series includes civics courses and forums with candidates and thought leaders

NH’s Community Colleges are promoting civic participation through a three-pronged series that includes new courses on the presidential primary, presidential candidate forums at community college campuses, and “Granite State Conversations” with thought leaders on issues important to America’s future. 

The series, called “Touching the Future,”  launches this week with three candidate forums open to the public.  The Community College system has also scheduled the first “Granite State Conversation” for Oct. 26 with David H. Souter, Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Judd Gregg, US Senator from NH from 1993-2011, and Jamie Merisotis, CEO of the Lumina Foundation. 

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, Oct.  13 at 2:45 PM - Candidate forum with Sen. Lindsay Graham at NHTI-Concord’s Community College (Grappone Hall);

Thursday, Oct. 15 at 10:30 AM - Candidate forum with Gov. John Kasich at Nashua Community College (Auditorium);

Friday, Oct. 16 at 1:00 PM - Candidate forum with Gov. Martin O’Malley at NHTI-Concord’s Community College (Grappone Hall);

Monday, Oct. 26 at 2:30 PM – Granite State Conversation on “Civic Engagement and Education in American Democracy” with The Hon. David H. Souter, The Hon. Judd A. Gregg, and Jamie Merisotis (Auditorium)

“The series will deepen students’ understanding of democratic process and policy issues, offer greater access to the people running for office, and provide opportunities for candidates to discuss their positions on issues that are relevant to NH voters,” explained Ross Gittell, Chancellor of the Community College System of NH.

The civics course on the presidential primary was developed by Professor Stu Wallace of NHTI, Concord’s Community College, and is offered online throughout the Community College system.  The course is also available online to high school students as a dual credit program through eStart, a partnership between CCSNH and the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School. “Civic engagement is not just a right in our society, it is an obligation,” said Stu Wallace, who developed the presidential primary course.  “Our form of government was designed to be participatory in nature.  The New Hampshire presidential primary is an ideal way to engage students.  Students in this course will not just learn about the New Hampshire Presidential Primary and the issues facing our country today, but in meeting with presidential candidates and state leaders, students will learn how to ask the right questions and get good answers.” 

The candidate forums pair presidential hopefuls with community college students and is a new contribution to NH’s first-in-the-nation primary, which turns 100 years old in 2016. The forums are designed to engage the diverse student body at NH’s community colleges that is representative of the nation’s young adult and working adult population.    

Granite State Conversations will engage prominent thought leaders on topics including American democracy, healthcare, economics and poverty and opportunity in American communities.

 “Community college education includes a focus on real-world application of knowledge and skills,” said Chancellor Gittell.  “We do this extensively in technical and career programs.  A very  important part of education is also about civic and social responsibility and awareness of policy issues affecting our country, and these forums will give our students the opportunity to directly engage in the process and help to lead the conversation.”

NH’s seven community colleges encompass urban and rural NH communities, including Nashua, Manchester, Concord, Portsmouth, Laconia, Claremont and Berlin. Events held across the state will enable a regional focus on issues ranging from the challenges of rural economic development, to high-tech job growth along the I-93 corridor, to urban crime, to the environment.

The series is privately funded and was developed by CCSNH Chancellor Ross Gittell,  Bonnie Newman, Anna Grace Holloway, and Elizabeth Hitchcock.  All are connected to the community college system and have worked to advance educational opportunity in NH.  Ms. Newman served as CCSNH’s interim chancellor in 2011-12, and has held posts as interim president of UNH and of Executive Dean at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, in addition to several high-level government posts.  Mrs. Holloway, whose husband chairs the CCSNH board of trustees, has worked extensively to raise funds for scholarships for community college students.  Elizabeth Hitchcock is co-founder along with husband Jeremy Hitchcock, of Dyn, a Manchester-based technology company engaged in workforce development and education initiatives.  They assembled an impressive steering committee of well- known faces in NH politics from around the state and have established partnerships with  Dartmouth-Hitchcock, First Budget/The Concord Coalition, the Coalition for Job Creation, the Couch Foundation, the NH Charitable Foundation, the NH Institute of Civics Education, the Live Free or Die Alliance, Unitil, Northeast Delta Dental, the Lumina Foundation and WBIN. 

“These forums will occupy an important place in NH’s first-in-the-nation primary tradition,” said Lew Feldstein, a member of the steering committee and retired CEO of the NH Charitable Foundation. “Our state is known for providing opportunities for candidates and voters to meet face-to-face and have authentic conversations about issues.  These forums will pair candidates with students studying civic engagement to deliver a rich dialog about the future of our state, nation and world.”