Hamilton College Democrats Explore Careers in Politics and Government

Jeff Sobotko ’14 in front of the White House.
Jeff Sobotko ’14 in front of the White House.

Throughout the academic year, members of the Hamilton College Democrats keep themselves busy campaigning, organizing events and discussing current political issues at their bi-weekly meetings. This summer, many of them have channeled their energies into internships at a number of impressive political organizations and government agencies across the country. Three College Democrats in particular, Jeff Sobotko ’14, Fiona Wissell ’15, and Keara Fenzel ’14 have spent the summer gaining valuable professional skills and exploring their unique career interests first-hand. 

Jeff Sobotko ’14 has spent his summer interning for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), in Washington, D.C. The DCCC is the wing of the Democratic Party that works to elect Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives.  Sobotko became interested in the position after interning in the House while on Hamilton’s Semester-in-Washington Program. He says his experience in Congress gave him the desire to help Democrats win back the majority so they could more effectively pursue their legislative priorities.

Sobotko works in the DCCC Research Department where he spends his time researching Republican and Democratic candidates, thereby providing the foundation for the organization’s larger operations. “Campaigns are certainly something I could see myself becoming involved in,” says Sobotko. “This experience has allowed me to explore campaigns further and understand the many elements required for them to be successful.”

Also in Washington, D.C., Fiona Wissell ’15 is an intern for the U.S. Department of State. Wissell secured her internship in the Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs after an extensive application and security-clearance process. Her responsibilities vary day-to-day and include editing papers, preparing briefing materials, attending meetings, and assisting in additional projects as necessary.

“Each day at State is unique,” says Wissell. “On any given day I could attend a meeting on issues ranging from the Pacific Tuna Treaty to the Keystone Pipeline to wildlife trafficking in Africa.” Wissell adds that the internship has opened her eyes to a number of policy issues that she intends to follow even after her internship is complete. It has also given her the chance to observe foreign policy in a practical setting, which she believes will serve her well when she returns to the classroom. Wissell intends to channel this summer’s experience into a future career in international environmental policy.

On the other side of the country, Keara Fenzel ’14 has spent her summer as a fellow for the New Era Colorado Foundation, a Colorado group that works to encourage political involvement within the millennial generation. As a fellow, Fenzel has been trained in leadership development and issue advocacy, and has spent much of her time registering young people to vote and educating them about how to make their voice heard.

Fenzel’s time with New Era Colorado has been far from the typical summer internship experience. “It’s hard for me to describe a ‘typical’ workday, because our schedule is very nontraditional”, says Fenzel. The New Era fellows spend much of their time traveling around the state and meeting with various officials, hearing from speakers, and engaging in grassroots organizing. Fenzel says the most rewarding work is the voter registration. “There is no better feeling than getting someone registered to vote for the first time—especially someone who did not know that they were eligible to vote.”

“The millennial generation is the largest and most progressive demographic in history, but also one of the most underrepresented,” says Fenzel. “New Era believes that by increasing electoral access for young people like us, we can actually create a more forward-thinking political climate. That’s why I was so excited to get involved with New Era -- we as young people have the power to make very real, positive change in our government.”

** News about the summer activities of  members of the Hamilton College Republicans will be posted next week.

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