In a presidential election year involving “Twitter wars” and campaigns ads on Facebook, Political Science Professor Margaret Susan Thompson created a fitting course: “The 2016 Election & the New Media”.
Her class roster at Syracuse University is anything but typical.
“We’ve got everybody from SU sophomores who are about 18 or 19 to our oldest students who are 91 and 92 and happened to be married to each other,” Thompson explained.
The intergenerational class is made possible through Upstate OASIS, a non-profit group that promotes healthy aging through various programs. A partnership with SU allows eligible members over the age of 50 to apply for a spot in some classes.
Thompson offers an intergenerational course every other year.
“It is exciting for my students who are of traditional age to have people in the class who voted for Franklin Roosevelt and everybody since,” Thompson said.
Everyone is expected to follow races across the country through various sources, including social media.
Randy Wheat, an OASIS student, learned how to join a private Facebook group with help from her younger classmates. Now, she’s also an active Twitter user.
“I was pretty impressed with myself frankly,” she said with a laugh. “These guys all helped me – that’s the only reason I could do that.”
The benefits trickle down as well, with first-time voters seated alongside classmates who grew up with their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents.
“Having older women in the class really helps us put into perspective how long women really took to get suffrage and to have a female running who is so close to becoming president – I think that is something that we really just don’t think about as much as we should,” said Raychel Renna, an SU Honors Student. “I’m really grateful to have had women tell me stories of when they were younger and seeing how appreciative they are of the fact that Hillary Clinton has made it to where she is.”
Phyllis Lavine admits that she assumed younger students wouldn’t know much about important issues facing the country.
“I think my expectations might have been a little lower and they’ve been raised,” Lavine said. “They are more aware than I thought maybe a 19 or 20-year old might be.”
OASIS members don’t get credit for the class at SU. What everyone gains is far more valuable.
“We’re all learning together and growing together about the same election that we’re all voting in together,” said first-time voter Marisa Joachim.
“It is a really stellar experience,” Wheat added.
Click here for more information about Upstate OASIS.