Learning Campaign Organizing and Politics | Anna Baker-Heans | Urban Studies

Anna Baker-Heans (she/her), Urban Studies, Minor: Global Studies

Learning Campaign Organizing and Politics
As a student who worked to help pay for my education it was not always easy to choose between jobs that paid and unpaid internships/learning opportunities that could help me gain valuable skills and experience towards a career after graduation.That’s why I was so excited to receive the Eugene Lang Opportunity Award. This award allowed me to do in depth research and observation of a political campaign in New York City. I was able to observe and learn from campaign staff about what goes into running a successful campaign for NY State Assembly. Through direct shadowing of the campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, and candidate, I learned valuable skills and strategy not taught in the classroom including how to engage voters through tabeling and door knocking, how to utilize voter mobilization software, how to fundraise, and how to recruit/ train/ and engage volunteers. My goal for this experience was to learn as many career skills as possible through observation and shadowing to both build off of the content I was learning in my classes at The New School, and also to build experience that would make me a stronger candidate when applying for jobs after graduation.

What Form will your Final Project Take?

Who was supporting you in with work?
Jurgen von Mahs (professor and advisor at TNS)

How has this project has been impactful or transformative — for you personally or for those this work has impacted:
Before this experience I felt strongly that I wanted to work in politics, community organizing, or policy advising after graduation. As an urban studies major I had taken classes in community organizing and public policy. I had read and studied these fields. But I wanted the chance to really observe this type of work, to see what the day to day of these jobs were like. Through the research and observation I did with my Eugene Lang Opportunity Award, I got the exposure I was hoping for. I got to observe in detail the day to day of those working in the fields I am interested in working in, and I gained knowledge and confidence in my ability to do these jobs post graduation. In my classes at The New School I learned a lot of soft skills, I engaged in challenging and deeply interesting conversations about world issues and politics. And through my experience shadowing a campaign I gained a lot of important hard skills to complement that education.

Before shadowing this campaign I had taken classes in community organizing and had a few political internships and volunteer experiences so I had a loose understanding of what goes into a campaign’s field strategy. I knew that it was important to engage voters, and get as much visibility and community interaction as possible for a candidate. After observing a campaign and showing up multiple days a week throughout a campaign cycle I learned more of the specifics and hard skills that go into a campaign, such as how to use voter mobilization software, how to use those softwares to find voters and make a plan to engage them. I learned how much work and detail goes into building a team of volunteers and planning how to best utilize them to engage voters. I saw the specificity that goes into getting enough petition signatures to get your candidate on the ballot. And I saw the research, cooperation, and teamwork that goes into the roll out of a campaign platform, or campaign literature. My experience shadowing and observing a campaign throughout the campaign cycle allowed me to gain many of the important insights and hard skills that go into successful organizing and policy work. This experience has transformed not just my skillset as I enter the job market, but also my confidence in myself to successfully utilize that skill set.

What would you do differently? How would you advise a student who is going to do something similar?
I wish I had known about the option to study a campaign sooner. Getting grants to do political work can be challenging, and therefore it can also be challenging to gain valuable career skills and exposure in politics as a working student. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, and would recommend to any other student in a similar position that studying and observing a campaign up close with regular hours can be a great way to gain experience and knowledge, and can open up a lot more options in terms of funding and support.

Are you going to publish or print your work? If so, where?

In this photo a large crowd of about 25 volunteers is gathered huddled together on a gray brick patio after a campaign event. Everyone is smiling and several people have their fists up. It is dimly lit with string lights hanging in the background.

Short summary
The Eugene Lang Opportunity Award gave me the financial support I needed to dive deeper into a career path I was interested in pursuing after graduation. It allowed me to devote over 15 hours a week to observing and learning from a campaign for New York State Assembly– time I would have otherwise had to spend working to support the cost of my education. This experience complemented the classroom education I gained at the New School, and helped me gain a stronger understanding of the skillset needed for a career in politics and community organizing.

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