For Katie Genoversa-Wong ‘14, Election Night, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, was an emotional rollercoaster ride.
As a Praxis intern working for the Elizabeth Warren senatorial campaign last summer, Genoversa-Wong watched the Massachusetts senate race particularly closely.
“I was nervous that she was going to lose, excited at the prospect of her winning, happy that all my work had paid off, and sad that it was all over,” said Genoversa-Wong shortly afterward.
Some time around midnight, as the ballot returns indicated a strong win for Warren over incumbent U.S. Senator Scott Brown, Genoversa-Wong relaxed. “Seeing her win and knowing that I was a part—albeit an extremely small part—of it was one of the most satisfying things in the world to me.”
Also watching election returns closely that night was Meg Richardson ’14, who worked as an intern with the Angus King senatorial campaign in Maine.
“Sitting on the Scales House couch with my best friend next to me, watching Angus King’s name flash onto the screen on national news was a moment I will never forget,” said Richardson, who is from Kents Hills, Maine. “All the butterflies in my stomach flew into a calm formation and I felt an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders.”
For Genoversa-Wong and Richardson, both government majors, the experiences gained as part of national political campaign staffs will likely be useful long into their careers.
Genoversa-Wong spent most her days during the internship entering data, calling potential supporters, and knocking on doors to rally support for the candidate. After gaining some experience, she organized a house party for Warren supporters, as well as canvassing outings. “The Warren campaign really stressed the importance of grassroots organizing, and it was really important for me to be a part of that,” she said.
After returning to Smith in September, Genoversa-Wong continued working with the Warren campaign, serving as the campus organizer for Warren’s candidacy, leading voter registration efforts, recruiting volunteers and leading get-out-the-vote drives.
Richardson contributed to her candidate’s policies, conducted opposition research and polling calls, and wrote memos and press releases. “I learned how campaigns are run, how to network and how to listen to the needs of your state,” she said.
Genoversa-Wong sought a job working on a campaign last year after exploring elections and campaigns in several of her classes—that, and watching too many episodes of The West Wing, she admits. A native of Massachusetts, Genoversa-Wong became interested in the Warren campaign after seeing an interview with the candidate on TV’s The Daily Show with host Jon Stewart. “She was smart, passionate and eloquent, and I was sold,” says Genoversa-Wong. “I needed to be involved in some way.”
Richardson echoes Genoversa-Wong’s call of duty. “As I read what Angus King was saying and his message about independence and hoping to help unblock the gridlock in Congress, I realized this was a different candidate,” she said. “I knew there was no choice. I had to be involved.”
For Smith students, working on campaigns can provide invaluable real-world experience, says Stacie Hagenbaugh, director of the Career Development Office.
“Internships with political campaigns are an ideal match for our students,” she said. “Campaign jobs offer a behind-the-scenes view of the political process in action while giving interns practical experience performing a variety of tasks. These campaign teams always appreciate our interns.”
Now that both their candidates have officially become U.S. senator-elects, Genoversa-Wong and Richardson anticipate positive change in Congress.
“Her win was huge for Massachusetts,” says Genoversa-Wong of Warren. “As the first female senator from the state, her win means a lot for women.”
“King’s win means that Maine and the United States will have a fresh, new perspective in the U.S. Senate,” said Richardson.
In addition to the practical lessons learned on the campaign trail, both students emphasize the more profound insights gained through their internships.
“Most important were the deeper lessons I learned,” said Richardson, “that no matter what, when there is an injustice you must stand on your principles and try to make a difference.”
For Genoversa-Wong, an equally valuable takeaway: “I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how to deal with the criticism from people who disagree with me.”