Missy Calderone remembers the day her long search for the perfect college ended and she decided to go to Hofstra University.
"I was so upset - I was crying and crying," she said.
Calderone, a self-described "political science geek" from New Jersey, hoped to study at American University in Washington, D.C., but was crushed when her family couldn't afford it. She reluctantly signed up for Hofstra because it offered a $13,000-per-year scholarship.
Now, six months from graduation, Calderone says she can't imagine herself anywhere else. Hofstra not only has arranged for her to meet leading Democratic and Republican political consultants, it also paid for her to attend last year's Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Her experiences show how the university is bolstering flagship programs in an attempt to attract top-notch students.
Last year, Hofstra held dozens of seminars about politics, and hosted pundits and politicians including former Gov. Mario Cuomo and two former U.S. Treasury secretaries. Those activities culminated with the presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain in October 2008.
Since then, The Center for Civic Engagement has hosted speakers while the National Center for Suburban Studies has held a conference that discussed diversity and the future of suburbs. The Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency appointed two fellows - Howard Dean, the former Democratic presidential candidate and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Edward Rollins, a well-known Republican political strategist and Reagan Administration official.
For Calderone, 21, this has been the stuff of fantasy. She had dinner with Rollins recently, and she and five other students sat around eating bagels with Dean earlier this week.
All this has shaped her career ambitions. She often thinks about being a constitutional lawyer. Then, too, she likes her minor - art. "Maybe," she said, "I'll live in a studio in Brooklyn and paint."