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Students intern with politicians

Marisa Iati | Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Notre Dame students will work on both sides of the aisle and learn the nuances of American government as political interns around the country this summer.

Junior Paige Becker, a political science and English double major, will work for Republican Ohio Sen. Keith Faber at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

“I actually worked for him last summer as a campaign worker in his district,” she said. “He’s also the President Pro Tempore of the Ohio State Senate, so it will be exciting to be in the office.”

Becker said last summer she worked in Celina, Ohio, which is the largest town in Faber’s district. She helped Faber campaign for reelection in 2012 by organizing fundraisers and volunteers to walk in parades, pass out stickers with his name and distribute pamphlets outlining his platform.

She also helped Faber support the campaigns of other local Republican politicians.

“This summer will be different because I won’t be in the district office,” she said. “I’ll be working on constituent services, helping people that call in. I’ll also be doing some administrative duties. [Faber’s office is] doing the budget this summer, and I’ll be picking up some of the workload that the administrative assistants can’t do at that time.”

Becker said when she first contacted Faber last year, she had applied to various public relations internships but was looking for a job that more directly related to politics.

“I called his office and I asked if they offered any internships because he’s my state senator,” she said. “They gave me a list of options. I went into it planning to eventually try both [the Celina internship and the Columbus internship] because they said that they offered different experiences and different learning opportunities.”

Becker said she is looking forward to meeting other local politicians.

“Since [Faber] is in the Senate leadership, he works a lot with the directors of the different Ohio departments, in particular, [those in] the Department of Agriculture, the governor and the lieutenant governor,” she said. “I’m excited to work with other offices outside of the Senate and possibly work with Gov. [John R.] Kasich.”

Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science prepared Becker for her summer experiences by training her to write effectively and efficiently and by teaching her about governmental structure, she said.

“Last summer I would make campaign materials for [Faber], and it was really useful to be able to whip out a newsletter in an afternoon,” Becker said. “The other thing is when you’re answering people’s questions or trying to figure out what to put in a newsletter, you need to know the structure of how government works. It can be a lot more intricate and complicated than it looks on the surface.”

Sophomore and political science major Gordon Stanton said this summer he will work as an organizer at the Massachusetts branch of Organizing for America, President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.

“The organization is based out of Boston, but I’ll probably be working in my home area, which is New Bedford,” he said. “It will be sort of back and forth between the two.”

Stanton said he’s looking forward to building connections and learning about grassroots organizing and campaign-building. He said he thinks his involvement with the College Democrats of Notre Dame has helped prepare him for the internship.

“I made a lot of phone calls and knocked on doors for [Congressman] Joe Donnelly’s [reelection] campaign in the fall, and I’ve made phone calls and knocked on doors for Pete Buttigieg for the [South Bend] mayor’s race recently,” he said.

Junior political science and economics major Pete Elliott was an intern for the Indiana State Republican Party in 2008.

“It was called the House Campaign Committee, so I was working for the House of Representatives of the State Legislature for the Indiana General Assembly,” he said. “My job there was to help with a candidate’s campaign for election. It was 2008, so it was a bad year to be Republican.”

Elliott will work as an assistant in the Indianapolis Prosecutor’s Office this summer.

“I’d like to work in criminal law someday, so I’ve been really interested in the criminal justice system, and I figured there’s no better way to learn than being part of it for the summer,” he said.

Elliot said one of his classes focused on how the American government enforces laws and prepared him significantly for the internship. He also said his research experience reviewing witness statements and police records from The Troubles, a late 20th century period of conflict in Northern Ireland, has prepared him as well.

Elliott added he is excited to learn how the criminal justice system truly works.

“There are a lot of perceptions that are influenced by media,” he said. “You don’t get to see how the justice system really works. I’ve always been interested in how the state enforces rules. I’m also excited to meet some of the people involved in that and hopefully have them get to know me as well.”