The Iowa Project


From candidate announcements in the spring of 2015 to the caucuses in the winter of 2016, the IOP’s Iowa Project gave students a front-row seat to this critical stop on the road to the White House. Starting in early 2015, the Iowa Project facilitated student opportunities to learn about the structure and operations of a modern presidential campaign; to understand the unique political culture and history of Iowa; and to acquire tangible skills through workshops, field trips, volunteering and hands-on career opportunities. The year-long program, launched in February 2015, culminated with a two-day trip to Des Moines that enabled students to observe first-hand the caucus process and the kick-off of the 2016 presidential election.

The 24 students who made the trip with the IOP had the opportunity to meet with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, ABC News’ Jon Karl, the Washington Post’s Dan Balz, Snapchat’s Peter Hamby, the Iowa Republican’s Craig Robinson, the Paul Simon Institute’s David Yepsen, and others. In addition, the students had the chance to chat with Iowa Congressman Steve King and Heidi Cruz outside her husband’s rally in East Des Moines and met Martin O’Malley at a ‘get out the vote’ campaign stop. On Caucus Day, the students headed to an East Des Moines middle school to see Iowans cast their votes before fanning out across the city to attend rallies with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.

The trip capped off the Iowa Project, which launched in January 2015 with a series of campaign bootcamps, a trip to Des Moines, and two visiting Fellows, Republican political consultant Karen Slifka and former Iowa state director for President Obama’s 2012 campaign Brad Anderson. In the summer, 18 students headed to Iowa for 10-week internships, both in journalism and field work. From FOX News, CNN, Bloomberg, the Des Moines Register, Radio Iowa and ABC to Jeb Bush, Martin O’Malley, Marco Rubio, and Clinton, students had the chance to get hands-on experience either covering presidential campaigns or working closely with them. As a result, one student even landed a job with the ABC affiliate in Des Moines. In the fall, some of those students returned to Iowa to intern at a Democratic debate held by the Register and CBS News, while another student took Winter Quarter off to intern for ABC News.

Ultimately, the Iowa Project provided students with a unique opportunity to have a front-row seat for one of the most exciting, important events in politics.

Please contact Matt Jaffe, Director of Communications, at if you have any questions about the program.

Iowa Project Timeline

  • Winter 2015: From February through April 2015, the IOP ran a series of six hands-on "Campaign Bootcamp" workshops that gave students training in core aspects of campaign operations, from field organization and coalition building to advertising and messaging. During the week of March 2, 2015, Republican strategist Karen Slifka and Democratic strategist Brad Anderson were based at the IOP as visiting Fellows. Slifka and Anderson held three joint seminars that exposed students to the structure of the Iowa caucus and the nuances of this unique "first in the nation" state. 
  • Spring 2015: In early May, IOP staff led the Iowa Project Fellows on a two-day immersive trek to Iowa. Students met with veteran journalists, political consultants, and campaign operatives to better understand the caucus process in 2016 and the broader political culture in Iowa.
  • Summer 2015: For 10 weeks from June to September, the Iowa Project Fellows worked in Iowa on some aspect of the presidential campaign process. The students on the Journalism track worked at ABC, FOX, CNN, Bloomberg, Radio Iowa, and The Des Moines Register. The students on the Field track secured opportunities of their own through consulting firms, campaigns, or party organizations. 
  • Winter 2016: The IOP led a trip to Iowa during the final week of the campaign so that interested students could witness the 2016 Iowa Caucuses first hand.