On Thursday, Shastady Williams — a junior at the University of Central Arkansas — got to meet one-time-presidential-hopeful Herman Cain. That night she was field producing for foxnews.com live.
Earlier on Wednesday, Williams was at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Fla., to hear speeches from Ann Romney, the wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and renown New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"I am super excited for this wonderful opportunity," Williams said in email.
Williams is among two UCA political science students attending one of the national party conventions this month and next through The Washington Center. The center "is the largest academic internship program in the country and in the world," according to the group’s website.
The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars builds its programs, including classes, to coincide with the conventions during election years, said Allison Wallace, Honors College associate professor at UCA. This year, UCA picked Williams and Blake Brizzolara to go and paid about $4,000 per student, she said.
The center chose Williams to intern at the Republican National Convention, which started Tuesday — a day later than intended thanks to then Hurricane Isaac — and wrapped up late Thursday night. Brizzolara is in Charlotte, N.C., taking seminars and waiting for the Democratic National Convention to kick off next week.
"I just wanted to get some experience going to a convention and seeing how politics works first hand," Brizzolara said.
Both are writing blogs online through the university’s website. Wallace said UCA wants the students to learn how government and politics work and to network. The experience should help them build their careers and land other scholarships or fellowships, she said.
But, Williams and Brizzolara are also supposed to represent Arkansas, Wallace said. They are the only Arkansas students the center sent to the conventions.
"They are meeting people, networking and opening doors for themselves and their communities back in Arkansas," Wallace said. "It gives Arkansans a pair of eyes on the ground at each of these conventions."
Williams said the community should care that UCA has students at the conventions. What she learns and writes might help Arkansans be better informed voters, she said.
"You have to make your own decisions, and in order to do that, you have to have information before you," Williams said. "The Republican Convention and Democratic Convention — they show you what the candidates stand for."