When Syed Quadri worked on his first political campaign, he said he didn’t get the “typical” political intern experience.
Quadri, a senior strategic communication major, had to find an internship to earn credit for his Campaign Politics Seminar, which he took to fulfill his political science minor. Quadri worked as the main campaign worker for Ross Feinberg, a Republican candidate for Pennsylvania State Senate.
Initially, he said he wanted to work for a presidential campaign like some of his classmates, but his political science professor, Robin Kolodny, changed his mind.
Kolodny warned him he could “get lost in the sea of interns” working on a campaign for a higher office.
“Working on a smaller campaign has given me the opportunity to go out and canvas, go out and talk to people in person,” he said.
“I’m glad that I got to work one-on-one on a smaller scale,” he said. “We can reach out to voters instead of just working on different projects in the office.”
David Rivenbark, another student in Campaign Politics Seminar, interned for Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for attorney general of Pennsylvania.
While working for the campaign, Rivenbark said he saw Shapiro on a weekly basis, or sometimes every day.
“I didn’t want to be on a campaign that was so big I would never meet anyone,” Rivenbark added.
“On a larger campaign, there’s just so many people and you’re so low on the totem pole as an intern that you wouldn’t really have that connection,” he added.
Rivenbark, a sophomore philosophy and economics major with a political science minor, said this was his first time working on a campaign.
“No matter how much I had read about government and politics, however many facts I could spout out from a book, I really had no idea how it worked [before this],” he said.
Michael Crowe, a junior political science major, worked as the director of social media and an assistant researcher for Jim Pio, a Republican candidate for state representative. Before this semester, Crowe said he volunteered and worked on congressional campaigns, and on Tom Corbett’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign team.
“No matter where you are, what politician it is, what party it is, even if you’re not a political science major, they need people, just bodies doing things,” Crowe said. “Even if you don’t know about politics, [campaigns] need people to fill positions.”
“A lot of kids don’t realize how important state and local politics is, because the president doesn’t really influence your day-to-day,” he added. “Like the Philly cigarette tax, the president doesn’t touch that, your city and state politicians do, your state politicians control state taxes, so that’s really where the bulk of political influence is on your life.”
Rivenbark said that lack of local political knowledge is reflected in voter turnout, especially among college students.
“For instance, Temple students got upset when the budget didn’t get passed at first,” he said. “You can’t be that person and also be the person asking, ‘Who is my state senator, who is my state [representative]?’ If you’re going to care about these issues and put forth your ideas, [which] you should, it’s important to read up on your candidates.”
Crowe hopes that college students will take an interest in volunteering for local elections, but more than that, he hopes students vote for national, state and local officials today.
“Getting out there and working, or even just researching and knowing who you’re voting for on the down ballot, is really important, and a lot of kids in college don’t do that,” he said.
“At some point you’re going to have to grow up and vote,” Quadri added. “Not just in the presidential election, but in the smaller elections as well.”
Lucy Crawford can be reached at email@example.com.