The Junior Fellows enjoyed a final day in Austin, a day in which they listened to the last sessions, with a standout being one on campaign research. But the bulk of the day was devoted to group presentations. Students were placed into groups of four or five on the first day of the boot camp and, if they were doing their job, these groups worked on a campaign plan for hypothetical candidates over the next two days.
The three Junior Fellows were in three separate groups. Dulce Martinez “worked” for a Democratic candidate; Cody Williamson worked for a Republican candidate; and Jessica Rodriguez also worked for a Republican candidate.
In such situations, there are the usual frustrations. Some group members disappear; some group members do so little work, it would be just as well if they did disappear. While this can be frustrating, it is also like actual campaigns. Sometimes volunteers just don’t show up. Sometimes they do show up, but you wish they didn’t.
On the plus side, both the Boot Camp and actual campaigns allow you to work alongside smart and hardworking individuals, providing insights you wouldn’t come across individually.
The Junior Fellows did quite well during the presentations, although sometimes the teams at large struggled. Dulce Martinez’s team, for example, found it difficult to get on the same page and back one strategy. While Martinez did well during her part, one of the team members from the University of Texas was told, “You just can’t act that way on a campaign” by one of the campaign judges.
Cody Williamson’s group did quite well. In fact, the group won two top awards by the panel of judges. Cody took the middle spot in the presentations, providing information about outreach and events.
Jessica Rodriguez’s team also did well, winning one award. Ms. Rodriguez was also singled out for her performance, with one panelist saying, “Someone needs to just hire her right now.”
In all, four awards were given out, and the Junior Fellow teams won three of them.
More importantly, the campaign boot camp was a great learning experience for all three of us. We were able to make some wonderful professional contacts, with the panelists being engaging and supportive. We were also able to make contacts with the other students, many of whom, like us, will be moving into campaign roles and other professional positions over the next few years. Moreover, the information provided is crucial to any kind of work on a campaign and, in fact, the knowledge learned is transferable to all sorts of occupations–marketing, management, law, finance, research, and others.
It was a great experience. The highlight of the four days was undoubtedly our interaction with Justice O’Connor, but all four days were interesting, educational, and fun. Thanks to the Annette Strauss Institute and the New Politics Forum for their great work, and we look forward to similar opportunities in the future.