As John McCain and Barack Obama meet in their third and final presidential debate at Hofstra University tonight, Melissa MacAllister of Dover-Foxcroft will be a go-to gal for the print media covering the showdown.

“It’ll be my job to help them with anything they need,” said MacAllister, a 21-year-old senior and public relations major at the school in Hempstead, N.Y.

“They will ask for a student to interview, for information about the university, sometimes they will want to talk to experts in a particular field. Our job is to have all that ready for them,” MacAllister said Tuesday.

It is a terrific opportunity to intimately experience a presidential debate, and the media that covers one, she said. Media and public relations professionals in attendance have been almost as helpful to her, MacAllister said, as she has been to them.

“They are giving me advice on how to get into the profession,” she said, “and how this is something amazing to put on my resume.”

“The news media is everywhere,” she said. “The whole side of campus where this is going to be is blocked off. The Secret Service is everywhere and the debate hall is our arena. You can actually sit with a few thousand people in there but for security reasons, they only allow a couple hundred people to be in there.”

The debate begins at 9 p.m. and will be aired live on all the major broadcast networks and cable news networks. The 90-minute face-off will focus on domestic and economic issues and, unlike the other two debates, the candidates will sit at a table facing one another.

MacAllister doubts she will see the candidates up close, as she will be ensconced in the Media Filing Center as the debate occurs. She is among about 600 student volunteers helping to make the debate run smoothly, and counts herself among a relatively few fortunate people for one other reason.

“Our entire campus tomorrow will be all locked down. You won’t be able to get on without a credential,” she said.