Students work on political campaigns of both parties. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com
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Students all across campus have jobs and internships, but a very select few get to work on campaigns for politicians. Students pursuing a political science or a peace and conflict studies degree often fulfill their internship requirements with positions working for local campaigns to get experience in the world of politics.
The Peace and Politics Student Association (PPSA), Political Science Internship Coordinator Dr. Ryan Daugherty, and Political Science Department Chair Robin Turner connect students with internships and host resume workshops to get students involved in Indianapolis area politics.
Students like Cori Robinson, a senior political science and international studies double major and PPSA president, secured internships through forging their own networking connections.
“I was involved with the Indiana Democratic Party, and I interned for them this summer,” Robinson said. “So, through my networking opportunities from that, I met [the campaign manager], who then interviewed me about my current internship.”
Robinson is the campaign finance intern for Congressman André Carson of Indiana’s 7th district. On an average day, she helps with planning fundraising events, tracking financial data and handling donations.
“I want to end up in Washington D.C. at some point,” Robinson said. “I also, probably, want to run for office as well, so I think having experience working on a campaign will allow me to get firsthand experience on what goes into running a campaign.”
Vanessa Little, a sophomore political science and strategic communication double major, has the unique opportunity to be an intern on presidential candidate Mike Pence’s campaign. She works on election ballot research and making sure ballot requirements are being met. Little applied for this internship when Turner sent out an application to political science students because she eventually wants to be a campaign manager and then a lobbyist.
“Working on the campaign is interesting just because it shows me a little more about federal politics and all the processes you have to go through,” Little said. “I think it’s going to give me good background knowledge on how a campaign works, especially the presidential campaign. I think it is really cool because it includes all 50 states.”
Other students, like Raleigh Brown, a senior political science major and College Democrats of Indiana president, have been working in local politics in their hometowns. Brown is the campaign manager for Josh Lowry, who is a Democrat running for state representative in Indiana’s 24th district in November 2024. She was campaign manager for a county commissioner candidate when she met Lowry at a networking event in June 2022.
“One of my old bosses was running for office,” Brown said. “I reached out and said, ‘Hey, I’ll help however you need with your campaign.’ She actually got back to me and said, ‘Hey, you know stuff about politics. Do you want to run it?’ … I’m happy that I’m now able to say, ‘Okay, I know how we should run a campaign.’”
Another student who worked in their hometown political scene is Aidan Kohnke, a senior political science major and Butler University College Republicans president. Kohnke did outreach events and connected with community members for local campaigns in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently, he is a political intern for Eric Doden, a Republican candidate for Indiana governor. He collects signatures from citizens in the surrounding districts to get Doden on the ballot, a much larger scale of the type of campaigning he was doing back in Milwaukee.
“I stopped by my [local] County Republican Party Office, and they got me connected with one of the staffers there who was helping direct the [Milwaukee] representative’s campaign from the grassroots side,” Kohnke said. “I got involved by door knocking, phone banking and placing yard signs.”
Despite both being so involved in the political world, Brown and Kohnke have very different career goals. Although Brown has also found that she really loves working on campaigns, her dream has always been to attend law school. No matter what job she pursues, Brown believes that campaign jobs have helped her network and develop valuable life skills. Kohnke hopes to pursue campaign work at a higher level and thinks that his internships at the local and state levels will help him make connections.
“The experience of talking to people and knowing how to market a candidate to the public is an important one for students to have, because it mixes the understanding of what politics is and how politics works with knowing how to make it make sense for the general person who isn’t engaged,” Kohnke said. “I think the understanding of how to talk to people in your community is necessary, not just for political science majors, but for most students.”
Many students who have had these opportunities agree that working on a campaign is one of the best experiences you can have when going into any political field. It involves a lot of work and sacrificing some sleep and free time, according to Brown, but that does not matter as much because they love what they do. If their candidate gets elected, seeing the work they put into the campaign pay off is a rewarding factor, especially if they genuinely support the candidate and their beliefs.
“In politics, you can see the worst people can do,” Brown said. “But, I think the reason I keep coming back to it is because I want the best to happen, and I meet a lot of people that also want the best for people.”