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A Future in Political Finance

March 11, 2020

Even though undergraduate Nora Ptacek doesn’t graduate until May 2020, she has already been hired as the deputy finance director at the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party. Experiences inside and outside the classroom at the University of Minnesota helped prepare Nora for this position and gave her an advantage in the job market.

Hired Before Graduation

Nora helped lay the groundwork for her job with the DFL by interning in Senator Tina Smith’s office and taking POL 3080 - Internship in Government or Politics with Professor Paul Soper. “Professor Paul Soper provided wonderful guidance throughout POL 3080,” Nora says, “and I am grateful to have been a part of the course.” Additionally, receiving academic credit for her internship allowed Nora to create room in her schedule to work in the department, where she was able to focus on relationship-building skills that have been important in her new position. 

In addition to constituency outreach and casework, Nora took on a research project during the internship. Researching the evolution of union laws in the United States and presenting the findings to the staff members of the US Senate office allowed Nora to strengthen her professional skills.

DURIPs and Internships

The summer after Nora’s freshman year featured an internship in her home state of Wisconsin. “Working directly with the regional organizing director on Senator Tammy Baldwin’s reelection campaign was important in my development and certainly helped me in my current position,” Nora explains. Organizing and mentoring community action teams, connecting with voters in person and over the phone, and supporting the organizing director developed the skills necessary to communicate with a variety of stakeholders.

Nora also participated in the department’s Distinguished Undergraduate Research Internship Program, which she says “was crucial in [her] scholarly development.” She adds, “It allowed me to strengthen my analytical and critical thinking skills by conducting a broad literature review on public opinion as it relates to climate change, all while developing and executing a research design and plan.” Under the mentorship of Professor Paul Goren, Nora gained experience in bivariable and multivariable categorical data analytics. “I am so fortunate to have studied under a brilliant scholar,” Nora says.

Before being offered a job there, Nora interned in the finance department at the DFL. “At the DFL I had the opportunity to immerse myself in political experiences and projects that I had previously only read about,” Nora explains. “The opportunity to do meaningful and effective work reassured me that the academic and career decisions I had made were the correct ones for me.”

Now her work in the finance department includes developing, planning, and executing a number of small and large fundraising events. In addition, Nora connects and interacts with donors, manages the victory club program, and processes contributions. Nora sees her work as being part of the effort to build a strong party that can boost the capacity to activate voters and protect democracy.

“All of these experiences have been essential in my development as a leader and as an individual,” Nora emphasizes. The combination of in-class instruction and internship experience built a solid foundation of core career competencies that Nora turned into a job offer five months before graduation.