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Jill Neunaber

Photo of Jill Neunaber

Executive Director, America Next

What are your best memories from Semester in Washington?  What parts of the program did you enjoy the most?

"Having been in the industry nearly ten years, I now realize that SIWP was one of the best opportunities that I've had to build meaningful relationships with people whose paths I would not have otherwise crossed.  Even now, I am in touch with people that I met through SIWP, regardless of the fact that our politics or spheres of interest may not otherwise bring us together.

I enjoyed and found most valuable the concept of “sink or swim”. We learned by doing. Prior to SIWP I would not have had the ability to sit down and write out a plan to build a grassroots team of activists, yet SIWP equipped us with the necessary tools and experience to successfully execute such plans.  SIWP challenges students in ways that cause them to think differently, and I find myself relying on those same skills in many aspects of my work today. "

Where did you intern during SIWP? What was that experience like? How did it help you get where you are today?

"I interned at the United States Department of Justice in the Criminal Division of the Office of International Affairs.  This is the office responsible for tracking down the bad guys who are American citizens located somewhere abroad. It was an amazing opportunity to see law enforcement at work and learn about how small— and complicated— the world of international law can be.

The year before I did SIWP, I volunteered with a US Senate campaign.  Though I enjoyed that experience, I still thought that I was going to pursue law school when I finished my undergraduate degree.  It was the SIWP experience however, which showed me that there was a career path in the field that had captured both my heart and my imagination.  Because of SIWP, I decided that I wanted to do a presidential campaign before I attended law school; and after working on that presidential campaign, I realized there was no going back."

Please describe your professional history. How has your SIWP experience helped you along the way?

"To date I have been a Campaign Manager for a US Senate campaign and a swing state in the 2012 presidential election. I spent time as a staffer on Capitol Hill and am currently the Executive Director for Governor Bobby Jindal’s federal PAC and public policy organization.  

My SIWP experience provided valuable insight into how to pursue a career in a field which lacks a textbook and in a career path that generally lacks "how-to-manual." 

Please describe your current position.  What is a day in your work life like?

"As the Executive Director of both a federal PAC and a 501(c)(4) public policy organization, I am responsible for the political, financial, operational and organizational success of these organizations. Governor Jindal’s PAC, Stand Up to Washington, is committed to supporting candidates for federal office who will bring fresh conservative ideas to the table; while America Next is aims to go on the offense and define what conservative policies will look like if voters give Republicans the majorities."

How has SIWP helped you over the course of your career? Are there lessons you learned in the class/the practicum/your internship that you still use?

DC loves the word “networking”, but schmoozing at happy hours and passing out business cards is not enough. For those looking to make genuine and productive connections to peers and mentors, you must be aggressive in your outreach, consistent in your follow up and insightful in your questions."

Anything else interesting? Any words of wisdom for prospective or current students?

"Make people want to give you their time, and make the most of it when you get it."