If you go
What: Conference on World Affairs
When: April 7-11
Where: University of Colorado
More info: Find the event schedule and speaker information at colorado.edu/cwa.
Though during the summer of 2012 they were working on opposite sides of the presidential race, two University of Colorado students are happy to set aside their political differences to work together organizing panels and bringing a balanced selection of participants to the Conference on World Affairs this year.
Sarah Andrews and Tori Eberlein are student editors for the conference's politics and media subcommittee, which is tasked with bringing 18 to 20 political pundits, journalists, commentators, consultants and strategists to the 66th annual conference April 7-11.
In all, the CWA — which runs for a week every April — brings roughly 100 participants from a wide range of backgrounds to CU for discussion and debate during hundreds of talks and events.
Eberlein, who will graduate next spring, worked during the summer and fall in various roles for the Mitt Romney campaign. Andrews spent the same few months working for the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama.
They didn't know each other before they became student editors for the conference, but since they've been working together, Eberlein and Andrews say they've realized they have more similarities than differences.
"When I found out she worked on the Romney campaign, I was pretty excited to hear that," said Andrews, who will graduate in December. "If you've worked on a campaign, you know how much work you put into it. I know that she worked her butt off for something that she believed in, and I did the same. ... Students who are involved with the conference have this really great work ethic mentality and respect for each other, no matter where we're from and what we're going to check in the voting booth."
"You need to look at people and not define them by their political affiliation," she said. "We have so much in common, and we're completely on different sides of the political spectrum, but it doesn't really matter. Of course, on issues we're going to have our opinions, but ... when it comes to doing a job and getting things done and getting things accomplished, it matters less on your differences and more on your similarities."
There are 120 CU student volunteers working to make this year's conference happen, in collaboration with Boulder residents and the conference's small paid staff. That's an increase from 75 student volunteers in 2012, said conference spokesman Bryan New.
Student attendance numbers are also on the rise, New said. In 2008, college students made up 14 percent of the conference's audience. By 2012, that number had increased to 24 percent.
For Andrews, the conference will be one of the activities that sticks out later in life when she thinks back to her college experience. As a sophomore, she volunteered for the conference by driving participants to and from campus each day.
In the car, she met a participant who asked her about her goals and whether she'd consider working on a campaign.
It was that conversation that led her to jump with both feet into the Obama campaign, where she worked 80 to 100 hours a week with hardly any days off, she said.
Two years later, Andrews says she still emails the woman for job tips, contacts and advice.
Working to plan the conference has also reinforced the idea for both Andrews and Eberlein that balance is a good thing in politics.
Their committee works hard to bring a roughly equal number of political participants from each side of the spectrum to encourage thoughtful discussions and conversations.
"You can actually see (people at the conference) talking and discussing and gears in their heads going at the panels," Andrews said. "Without balance, there really isn't that much of a discussion there."
Balanced panels also give audience members a chance to ask panelists they may not agree with politically to explain their views, Eberlein added.
Though the conference is one week in April, the subcommittees meet starting in the fall to begin inviting participants, coming up with panel topics and organizing who will sit on each panel.
At times, the conversation in the subcommittee drifts a bit, Eberlein said, to political issues and views.
"More in the side comments," Eberlein said, laughing. "But we usually try to rein it in to focus on who we want to come and what purpose we want them to serve, to make it balanced and cohesive and a good group of people."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.