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University of Delaware Professor Lindsay Hoffman (left) hosts virtual reunions with past National Agenda speakers. She shares her view of the event from her computer screen.
By Eleni Finkelstein, University of Delaware junior and intern for the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication
APRIL 9, 2020—Rob Rogers strayed from his family’s business of pulmonary physicians when he decided to pursue a career as a political cartoonist. Now he returns to the National Agenda stage virtually to share some of his recent work with National Agenda alumni from 2015 to now. Rogers first spoke this past fall at Mitchell Hall as part of the speaker series where he shared his experiences as a cartoonist and sketched some pictures for the crowd, including the University of Delaware’s most famous alumnus, Joe Biden. Dr. Lindsay Hoffman, director of the annual National Agenda series, says Rogers was “some of the most fun I’ve had on stage.”
Hoffman has been taking advantage of UD’s online semester by hosting “Zoom Reunions” with students enrolled in National Agenda classes from years past. The first reunion on April 8 welcomed back Rogers to share his work with the alumni. Rogers took some time on Zoom to host a brief drawing lesson, show some recent cartoons about the coronavirus, and answer questions about his illustration process and his plans for cartoons during the upcoming primary election.
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Rogers Zoomed in from his home studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and gave students an inside scoop on how he creates his cartoons. All of Rogers’ work is hand-drawn and shaded before it is colored and finalized on the computer. As part of the National Agenda Zoom reunion, Rogers showed how he sketches political figures such as President Donald Trump and former president Barack Obama. “When I draw Trump, I usually start with the hair and the eyes...with [Obama] I would start with the eyebrows. Obama had those great eyebrows.” Political cartoons are intended to be playful and humorous, but still relevant to current events. Rogers notes, “You need to be careful not to over exaggerate things. A careful play of features is fine, but you can only touch on making fun of it.”
One alumnus asked Rogers if he had made any cartoon plans for the upcoming presidential elections. Rogers has made many cartoons recently revolving around current events such as the coronavirus and the director of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. However, regarding the election he says, “All my cartoons are done based on the news. I will draw something once something comes up. There has been little activity with this primary race lately.”
Students recounted their favorite National Agenda speakers from over the years, such as Appalachia author David Joy, whose contrasting mountain lifestyle and political standpoint surprised students and allowed them to question their own interpretations of political stereotypes. Another popular speaker was UD alumnus and Democratic primary front-runner Joe Biden, who joined the National Agenda stage in October 2017. One student pleasantly recounted asking the former VP the first question of the event.
With some alumni out in their respective fields for a few years now, Hoffman touched on the importance of networking after college. “The UD connection is a really important one.” National Agenda alumna Kathia Cubas exclaimed that a UD sticker on her water bottle has been enough to attract attention from other Blue Hens in New York City. “Everybody's everywhere, you'll run into someone who went to school with this person or this person, like it's never ending. No matter how many years ago they graduated or whatever."
Jacqueline Brown, another former student attending grad school in Chicago could definitely attest that Blue Hens have a special bond. “I will see people with Delaware backpacks or sweatshirts and in Chicago, you don't expect it at all! And I'll run straight up to them, like, 'Hi, I'm a Delaware alum! How are you? What year did you graduate?' I do not care at all. And I'm not that outgoing, but if I see a Blue Hen thing anywhere, I will definitely talk to them."
Hoffman has held two other National Agenda Zoom reunions since Rob Rogers with guests Domenico Montanaro, Ralph Begleiter, and former NJ governor and UD alumni Chris Christie. What excites Hoffman about these reunions is seeing the connection between current students and alumni. “A lot of Blue Hen solidarity there!” While the 2020 spring semester has been unlike those in years past, thanks to Dr. Hoffman UD students and alumni are still staying connected and continuing to strengthen their UD pride.