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Saint Leo University To Host 'Presidential' Debate

Saint Leo University
Emily Mincey of the GOP (left) and Jacob Gates on the Democratic ticket at last week's mock vice presidential debate at St. Leo University.

GOP Presidential hopeful Charles Franklin is a Virginia senator and a Desert Storm veteran. He's convinced he'll win the election to become the leader of the free world. But, he's facing a scandal. 

"The supposed scandal is that my e-mail was connected to an Ashley Madison account and that there's a woman who threw her life away for me," he said, referring to the online dating service with the motto: Life is short. Have an affair. "Those claims (of an affair) are absolutely false." 

You probably haven't heard about this, because this presidential bid isn't being sought in the national public arena. It's a simulation happening at Saint Leo University

Students studying history, political science and other disciplines are participating in what they call an "immersive project" where they have different roles in a presidential election. 

In real life, Franklin is actually Burke Tomaselli, a senior history and political science major. 

"It gives me a lot of hands-on experience to see the political world - whether it's political psychology or political criminalistics," he said. "I get to see it from every viewpoint. It's much more real-world scenarios."

And that's the whole point of the exercise, according to Jeff Borden, the school's Chief Innovation Officer. 

"Rather than reading about what happens in a pressure cooker - with political science or with running a campaign - the students are experiencing it," Borden said. "They have to react...so it's not just theoretical, it's extremely practical."

Borden said that Saint Leo is cutting edge, because most colleges don't employ the use of alternative realities. Students will be graded for the simulation, but he said it's ultimately about engaging them to participate in all aspects of the political process. 

Saint Leo's "presidential" debate will be held at the university on Friday at 7 p.m. and will also be livestreamed via http://saintleo.it/arle/

Quincy J. Walters is a junior at USF, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. His interest in journalism spurred from the desire to convey compelling narratives. He has written for USF’s student paper, The Oracle and is currently the videographer for Creative Pinellas. If he’s not listening to NPR, he’s probably listening to Randy Newman.
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