When U.S. congressional candidates Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier squared off in a debate prior to the November election, in the audience were several Hamilton students with more than a passing interest in the election’s outcome.
Students in the government course “Campaign Internship, Participation, Observation” met once each week to read and discuss texts dealing with congressional elections and political internships. The remainder of the “class time” — 10 hours a week — was spent volunteering for the campaigns of Arcuri, Meier or NY State Senate hopeful Joe Griffo.
Taught by Mack Mariani, visiting assistant professor of government, and Philip Klinkner, the James S. Sherman Professor of Government, the course gave students a look at the inner-workings of a nationally watched campaign. Students did fundraising, prepared mailings, talked with voters and sampled other jobs that make a campaign run smoothly.
“This type of firsthand experience cannot be taught or learned in a classroom,” said Katie Steigerwald ’07, who is interning with the Meier campaign. Bevin Kenny ’07, who is working for Arcuri, is interested in pursuing a career in politics and believes that this experience will give her a head start. “Instead of learning theoretically, I’m actually doing,” she said.
In addition to their internships, students keep daily journals of their campaign work and will write final papers after the election to analyze the outcomes of the race and the state of the American political system in light of their experiences. “Internships help students put everything into better context,” Mariani noted, “and that’s important to the study and practice of political science.”
For many of the interns, this is an opportunity to explore career options and to get the ground-level experience needed to pursue jobs in campaign politics. For others, it’s a more personal commitment. Derek King ’07 of Cortland, N.Y., interning with Arcuri, said, “I wanted to be able to participate in this highly competitive race, since whoever wins will be my representative in Congress.”