This summer, numerous Hamilton students watched presidential candidates travel the country debating, meeting voters, and addressing some of the most pressing issues facing America. Peri Kessler ’22, Jarrod Gerstein ’20, Gabrielle Colchete ’21, and Sarine Arzoumanian ’22 did more than follow the action—they were on the ground organizing, fundraising, and spreading the messages of their respective candidates. Through their internships, each student had the opportunity to connect with the American political process and make a difference in the 2020 election cycle.
The students had different reasons for working for campaigns, one of which was support for the policies promoted by the candidates. Kessler, who worked for Mayor Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire, explained: “I love the way [Buttigieg] prioritizes governmental reform and makes the shared American values of freedom, security, and democracy central to his candidacy.”
Colchete, a communications intern with Bernie Sanders’ campaign in D.C., also cited policy as the reason for her interest: “His 2016 campaign pushed positions such as Medicare For All, a $15 minimum wage, and rejecting corporate PAC money into mainstream discussion,” Colchete said. “I’ve always seen Bernie as a uniquely brave leader who isn’t afraid to rock the boat, and I was excited to see what new ideas his campaign would come out with while working with them.”
Meanwhile, Arzoumanian said she was drawn to work for New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s campaign because she lives in New Jersey and was familiar with him and his policies. "I wanted to get to know more about Cory, but I also wanted the experience of working for a political campaign,” she explained.
Gerstein said his interest in Sen. Michael Bennet’s campaign was both policy-based and driven by the experience he hoped to gain from working on a presidential campaign. “Besides our similar political philosophies, I was drawn to his campaign because of its size,” Gerstein said. “It was exciting to be able to see the inner-workings of a grassroots campaign, and I was particularly excited by the exposure I was going to get to the Iowa state director and Senator Bennet himself when he visited.”
All four students made notable contributions to their respective campaigns, including organizing new volunteers, shaping the candidate’s image, working on research projects, and answering voters’ questions. Many had expectations for the internship experience that were either met or surpassed, as their work was very hands-on and essential to the operation of their offices and the campaign as a whole.
“I was surprised how much interns were valued on the campaign,” said Kessler, whose role was organizing young people in New Hampshire. Gerstein also said that the type of work he conducted for Senator Bennet’s operation was very diverse and exposed him to numerous aspects of presidential campaigning. “From canvassing to outreach to data analytics and memo writing, I really got to do everything I envisioned was happening on a campaign,” he explained.
The students all plan on staying involved with their campaigns in some capacity, whether it be acting as a campus organizer on College Hill, making phone calls, or simply using word-of-mouth to promote their candidate’s messages. They each shared the proudest moment from their summer internship; Arzoumanian said hers was that “Cory’s campaign manager learned [her] name,”while Colchete said that she often “came across a new story that would say something about the campaign that needed correction,” and that it was her job to make these corrections and shape the image of the campaign.
Kessler cited her work organizing high school students in New Hampshire, adding: “It was great to see how much the campaign values young people.” Gerstein was often able to propose ideas straight to the state director of Bennet’s campaign. “One of these ideas was to take a more quantitative look at Iowa’s demographics to figure out where we should be focusing our resources,” he said.
We would appreciate any information about students who worked on other campaigns, including Republican presidential campaigns. The stories of these students and others who have worked on political campaigns are a testament to Hamilton’s civically engaged student body that analyzes critical issues and strives to make the United States and local communities better places to live and vote.