BVU students savor up-close look at Heartland forum

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Brook Stephens and his BVU Beavers didn’t play baseball on Saturday, as Mother Nature’s gusty winds and cool temperatures postponed a double-header with Loras to Sunday.

And yet, the Saturday result for the junior from Clarinda represented a win-win situation. Rather than report to a baseball diamond, Stephens ducked inside Schaller Memorial Chapel, where he joined 800 guests in listening to the following Democratic candidates participating in the Heartland Forum: Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former HUD Secretary Julian Castro; former Rep. John Delaney; and Rep. Tim Ryan, who formally entered the race on Thursday.

The afternoon was a good fit for Stephens, a political science major.

“It’s awesome that BVU and Storm Lake could host an event like this,” said Stephens. “It was interesting to see, to watch, and to listen as candidates addressed lots of rural issues that both sides of the (political) aisle can agree on.”

Tanner Frost, a sophomore digital media major from Boone, enjoyed an up-close look at how reporters and photographers cover marquee political panels. Frost, who worked to broadcast BVU baseball and softball games on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, sandwiched the Heartland Forum into his busy weekend. He had a place in the photographers’ pen mere feet from the stage and kept his focus on the candidates and the crowd for two hours while capturing images for BVU’s online student newspaper, The Tack.

“It was a cool experience,” Frost said. “I got to rub elbows with some people from CNN, along with photographers and journalists from throughout Iowa.”

Allyssa Ertz, editor-in-chief of The Tack, met Harry Smith, who traveled to Storm Lake from New York City, his base of operations for NBC News.

“Harry Smith was so nice,” said Ertz, a junior digital media major from Denison. “He told me to take all the English classes I could, because they would help me write. He said that whether or not I go into journalism, I should

know how to write.” 

The Heartland Forum represented the first live Iowa Caucus

campaign event for Emily Rubel, a political science major from Zwingle. She worked as a volunteer backstage before receiving an escort to her front-row seat seconds before the event went live for the TV cameras.

“This was my first time seeing a presidential campaign event in person and I got to watch four presidential candidates and a Congressman speak to the crowd, all in one setting,” Rubel said. “When Dr. Brad Best (professor of political science) asked for volunteers last week, I raised my hand and said, ‘Pick me! Pick me!’”

Rubel joined a select number of BVU students in assisting staffers from the Huffington Post, an event sponsor and organizer, in seeing that the Heartland Forum ran smoothly. Rubel was positioned near a pair of dividers in a hallway on the first floor of Dixon Eilers Hall, immediately beyond the backstage entrance to Schaller Memorial Chapel. 

“I was stationed there to help show people where they were supposed to go,” she said. “I ended up meeting Senator Elizabeth Warren just before she went to change clothes before the event.”

Warren smiled, shook hands with Rubel, and shared a brief exchange before Rubel wished the Massachusetts senator good luck in her portion of the Heartland Forum.

“Each candidate had 15 minutes and the time flew by,” Rubel said. “It was an amazing event.”

“I was in the photographers’ pen and watched one photographer as he downloaded and sent his photos immediately,” Ertz said. “I was seeing what types of shots he was getting and made a note to myself to bring my laptop if I get this kind of opportunity again. It was a real learning experience for me.”

On Monday, Rubel and Stephens reported to Best’s class called “Congress and the Presidency” and soon broke into a discussion about the Heartland Forum, sharing with their peers several observances about the afternoon, a day in which BVU stood at the center of the early Iowa Caucus campaign swing.

“It was a super event for BVU,” Stephens said. “People come here for the advantages of small class sizes. But, at the same time, what separates BVU is that, through an event like the Heartland Forum, it can give you a big-school feel as well, something that opens doors and opens opportunities. At BVU, you can get both. I’m very proud we were able to hold an event like this and that I could attend.”

For Stephens, the weekend got even better on Sunday as the baseball team was able to secure both games of that postponed doubleheader, literally a win-win for the Beavers.