Professor Robert Smith teaches a class on Donald Trump's campaign at Savannah State University.
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Professor Robert Smith teaches a class on Donald Trump's campaign at Savannah State University.

 

 The Trump Factor

College students study history,  philosophy, math ... and now Donald Trump.  Students at Savannah State University had the option to take, The Trump Factor, a new class designed around the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Trump regularly makes controversial statements but his support is still strong.

This summer, the students learned about Trump's appeal and asked what it means for the future of American politics.

Professor Robert Smith gestured to his Powerpoint presentation in front of the class. The bullet points said things like, “newcomer, party acceptance, conservative.”

He said his goal for the class, is to highlight potential changes in the country’s political landscape through the Trump campaign.

 

“What is resonating in terms of what he’s saying to segments of the audience?" Smith asked, "Why can in fact, when there’s such controversial things that seem to define his candidacy... Whether it’s about his comments on race his comments on Muslims… why is he able to capitalize on that?” 

He says Trump appeals voters who feel “disaffected and disenfranchised."

Senior Frederic Keyhea is a Political Science major at Savannah State. He’s taking the class because he admires Trump as a businessman and wants to learn more about his transition into politics. 

"Also," Keyhea adds,  "I wanted to know like, what influenced him, and what’s the drive for him wanting him to push to be president." 

Fellow Polysci major Dayne Ladson is not a Trump supporter. She’s taking the class to better understand why so many others are. 

"It’s blatant racism, and it's been scaring me so much," she said.

 

"I understand partially why people are rallying behind Donald Trump, because he’s saying all the things that they’ve wanted to say. Which is again, another thing about me being scared. But I just want to understand more...I want to be inside the mind of the monster."

Smith regularly encourages his students to talk about what Trump represents to them. 

The class is designed to encourage open conversation and debate. Students traded opinions across the room.

"The epitome is a standard and he’s beyond the standard, he’s Republican to the max, does that make sense?"

"I probably see him as an opportunist."

"Is this what making America great again is?"

"But I feel like in all honesty as African-Americans, America was never great for us." 

Smith said, he isn’t elevating any one opinion.

"This is not a pro-Trump class this is not an anti-Trump class. This is a class that is trying to examine what I think is a new phenomenon in the American political scene."

Julius Scipio is the Interim Dean of the College of Social Sciences. He said the Trump campaign is historic, so when Smith suggested a course on the presidential candidate, he didn’t hesitate to sign off.

 

"There have been candidates who have run without that deeper party affiliation. But Donald Trump has name recognition, a brand factor I believe that I don’t recall any other candidate in the presidential election in recent memory having. Whether you agree, disagree with Donald Trump, very few people don’t know who Donald Trump is." 

It’s uncommon to teach a class on a candidate who is still running. But by doing so, Smith's students get a chance to do experience something unique.

"What we’re always doing in political science is looking backwards," Smith explained. "In other words, we’re looking to history we’re looking to past elections. We have very few opportunities to be able to look at a contemporary issue."

Smith said he may teach a follow up class in the fall but in the meantime, students prepared for their final as the 5 week course neared its end.

They have to give a 5 minute presentation that attempts to answer the question so many people are asking... What does a Trump Candidacy means for the future of US politics?

Savannah State University is the oldest historically black college in Georgia.