Internship Success Stories

From Washington D.C. to the Capitol in St. Paul to community and political groups that fill the space in between, Political Science students gain practical experiences that contribute to their success after graduation. We hope these stories inspire you as you begin your own internship search.

For questions about our internship program or if you have your own success story to share, please contact Director of Programs in Political and Civic Engagement Paul Soper at psoper@umn.edu.

Steven Vogel

Campaign Manager

Steven Vogel
Steven Vogel during his campaign manager internship

How did you find this internship?

A professor, Dennis Donovan, recommended I meet with Nora Slawik, the Mayor of Maplewood, for an informational interview. Nora and I hit it off at our meeting, and she contacted me a couple weeks later saying she needed a campaign manager, and I accepted.

What were your primary responsibilities while at your internship?

Anything and everything involved with a campaign-- managing volunteers, setting the agenda and strategy, door knocking, phone banks, finances, social media engagement, election day party planning (we won 63%-36%!), etc. If Nora told me to do something, and it wasn't something I could delegate to someone on my team, I did it!

How did this experience help you prrepare for your future career?

As someone who wants to run for office myself today, it was extremely helpful seeing how all the various campaign components fit together at a high level, rather than just volunteering for one specific campaign aspect. Plus, campaign strategy is not an exact science; just getting a feel for general direction setting and prioritization of different campaign elements at different times was very insightful.

What did you most enjoy?

Door knocking is an activity that some people hate. It's awkward, forced, and exhausting. Yet, I really enjoyed it. It's a valuable way to meet people in your community, and more importantly, constituents deserve to either hear candidates' platforms or meet their incumbent officials. A lot of state DFL people will advise cutting down door knocking to just strong or lean Dem voters. But I strongly believe in engaging citizens, and the best way to do that is to go knock on their doors, regardless of whether or not they did/will vote for you.

What is the one piece of advice you would give someone following your footsteps?

Meet with as many people as possible. I was by no means looking for an internship; I just connected with the right people and was given a lucky break. I was not lucky however, by being offered a position by the first person I met with. I meet with at least one person every 1-2 weeks who I think would be a valuable contact. The vast majority of these meetings yield no fruit (other than random snippets of advise), and that's ok. In the end, the one consequential meeting is worth the vast amount of other meetings one will carry out.

What career competancies did you develop most during your internship?

Applied Problem Solving, Innovation & Creativity

Nora Ptacek

Intern for Senator Tina Smith

Nora Ptacek
Nora Ptacek in Senator Tina Smith's office

How did you find this internship?

I knew I wanted to intern in a Congressional office so I kept my eye on Senator Smith's website.

What were your primary responsibilities?

Take in constituent policy requests and input casework into VOICE (database), work on special projects assigned by staff members - from policy research to letter writing, conduct focused research on a topic important to the office, in my case labor unions, and give a final presentation, attend meetings and events with staff members and take notes/write memos.

What did you learn from the experience?

I learned a lot about the inner workings of government such as constituent outreach, casework, and staff research. I've had the opportunity to work closely with the Senator's staff members and in getting to know them I've learned a lot about different paths into the public service.

How did this internship help you prepare for your future career?

This internship gave me the opportunity to build relationships with staff members who are happy to give career advice. It also gave me the opportunity to deepen my analytical and critical thinking skills through real world experience.

What did you most enjoy?

I enjoyed helping constituents, conducting impactful research, and meeting new people.

What career competancies did you develop most during your internship?

Analytical & Critical Thinking, Oral & Written Communication

What is one piece of advice you would give someone following your footsteps?

Never be afraid to ask questions and always seek new opportunities.

Cassidy Drummond

Youth Coordinated Campaign Intern

Cassidy Drummond
Cassidy Drummond, second from the left in yellow, with fellow interns

How did you find out about this internship?

The PoliSci Pulse Undergraduate Newsletter.

What were your primary responsibilities?

It was to register and engage youth voters on the Twin-Cities campus and get them involved with the midterm election.

What did you learn from this experience?

That your efforts can truly make an impact. Youth voters increased around 30% compared to the turnout for the 2014 midterms.

How did this internship help you prepare for your future career?

It showed me what it is like to work during a campaign season.

What did you most enjoy?

Interacting with new people and working with coworkers who were equally as passionate about voting.

 What would you tell someone following in your footsteps?

If you don't like door knocking now, you will by the end!

What career competancies did you develop most during your internship?

Engaging Diversity, Active Citizenship & Community Engagement

Greg Taushani

Field Intern

Greg Taushani
Greg Taushani door knocking during his internship with the DFL

Where did you hear about this internship?

The PoliSci Pulse Newsletter.

What were your primary responsibilities?

Maintaining contact with voters, conducting outreach through door knocking and phone banking, organizing volunteers.

What did you learn during your internship?

I learned the ins and outs of a political campaign, how to talk to strangers about politics in a friendly and respectful way, how state elections work and what a state representative does.

How did this internship help prepare you for your future career?

It provided me with skills in interacting with other people and discussing politics in a productive manner.

What did you enjoy the most?

Interacting with fellow interns, gaining valuable feedback about the political climate from voters I contacted in the community.

What is a piece of advice you would give someone following your footsteps?

Make sure you're comfortable conducting voter contact before going out door-knocking alone! Don't be afraid to ask for a partner to go with you.

What are career competencies you developed during your experience?

Ethical Reasoning & Decision Making, Active Citizenship & Community Engagement, Teamwork & Leadership