What are your best memories from Semester in Washington? What parts of the program did you enjoy the most?
"My best memories are of learning so much about the techniques and strategies of candidate and issue campaigns, putting together a mock issue campaign plan, and meeting so many great people – many of whom are friends and colleagues of mine to this day.
There were so many great things about the program, but what I enjoyed the most was the hands-on experience. Between the practicum and my internship, I felt I got a good feel for what it might be like to work in the world of politics."
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 White House during my SIWP experience. Needless to say, being inside The White House every day is just absolutely amazing. I worked in the Department of News Analysis. Very early each morning, we put together packets of all the pertinent newspaper articles – and then we got to deliver them. I was in the First Lady’s office, the Situation Room, etc. I got to see every part of The White House and meet a lot of political celebrities. And a few years later, my supervisor became a colleague of mine on a presidential campaign."
Please describe your professional history. How has your SIWP experience helped you along the way?
"My SIWP experience really cemented my professional path. After SIWP, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to work on campaigns. I have since worked for numerous nonprofits, presidential and Congressional candidates, state political parties, political consulting firms, and labor unions – everything from Obama to SEIU (Service Employees International Union). I have done everything from managing a Congressional campaign, to lobbying state legislators on transportation bills, to organizing union members to help pass health care reform, to halting flawed ballot measures, to educating the public about pay equity. SIWP was the start of my professional network and the connections I made through SIWP have been key connections throughout my career."
Please describe your current position. What is a day in your work life like?
I currently work as the Director of Organizing for the Nevada State Education Association, part of NEA (the National Education Association). No two days for me are ever alike. Union organizing is a new challenge at every turn – and amazingly rewarding. At the heart of any campaign is organizing – it’s all about reaching out to people and empowering them to create change. And that’s what I get to do every day. I supervise a team of organizers and direct grassroots tactics. I track and analyze data. (No one ever warned me there would be so much math in politics and organizing.) I spend time out in the field at worksites. I work with each local union and coach them on best strategies and tactics. And I do a lot of strategizing and determining on what happens next – how, why, when, where, and who – everything from drumming up support for a ballot measure on Election Day, to putting pressure on elected officials to fund education, to fighting the school district about changes to workers’ health insurance, to increasing union membership.
How has SIWP helped you over the course of your career? Are there lessons you learned in class/the practicum/your internship that you still use?
"I still have all my notes and books from my SIWP experience and still occasionally refer to them. It was the most in-depth classroom experience I had in terms in working on campaigns, passing legislation, and just actually working in the realm of politics. The practicum in particular taught me a lot. It was a hands-on experience in putting together and running an issue campaign – something that I now do on a daily basis. I learned firsthand about creating a TV ad, conducting a poll, drafting legislation, etc."
Anything else interesting? Any words of wisdom for prospective or current students?
"SIWP is a great way to dive into learning about politics and what it’s really like to work in the political world. The connections you make during your SIWP experience really will last a lifetime."