This time of year is busy for some students pursuing politics at the University of Utah — beyond juggling midterms and jobs, some are working on political campaigns.
The Hinckley Institute of Politics at the U works to give students real-world experience outside of their studies by connecting them to internships. Among the internships available are numerous positions working for politicians who are campaigning for elected positions across the state.
Morgan Lyon Cotti, a professor at the Hinckley Institute who oversees student internships, emphasized how vital internships are in the college experience and said students of any major are eligible and encouraged to get involved in Hinckley internships.
“Because the Hinckley Institute has fostered relationships with offices, community members and political candidates, we can connect students with the campaign they are interested in,” Cotti said. “Since our students can be trained through the campaign management course, they are often qualified to run local campaigns or play a vital part of a more high-profile race.”
The campaign management course instructs students on basic politics and teaches the analytical skills crucial to running a successful campaign. Students have the option to expand on the course and obtain a campaign management minor, which includes classes in political science, communication and philosophy.
Managing director of global internships Jean Oh described the role of interns in the campaign process, saying they do everything from strategic planning, managing campaign websites and social media, to responding directly to voter concerns. Some students have gone extensive distances working with political campaigns.
“Our students have traveled throughout the state on local campaigns, to Pennsylvania and Florida on presidential campaigns,” Oh said. “Hinckley interns working on parliamentary campaigns have piqued the interest of British voters, who are curious as to why a student from the U[nited] S[tates] would be involved in a British [Member of Parliament] campaign. The students’ presence has opened doors to conversations that otherwise would have been shut to local campaigners.”
The Hinckley Institute helped Bella Fregoso get involved with Abe Smith’s campaign for the Salt Lake City Council District 7 seat. Her job consists of managing voter data and helping identify areas the campaign should focus on based off of demographics. She said the best part about her experience is learning how important local elections are and how community leaders have such a big impact on individual neighborhoods.
“I think it’s easy now to feel like we are shouting into the void when it comes to political issues, especially nationally, but on a local level one person has an opportunity to make a difference,” Fregoso said.
Internships and campaigns can make for a memorable college experience, but the long-term effects can be the key to a fulfilling lifelong career according to Gina Shipley, managing director of national internships. She feels it is programs like this that prepare students for life after graduation.
“Many of our students turn their internships into full-time jobs,” Shipley said. “Many of our former interns now work in high-profile positions in [Washington] D.C. and one of our students who interned in Belgium this past summer is headed back there to work full time.”