With state and local elections looming on the horizon, the Yale College Democrats is launching a new Fellows Program to offer students access to two dozen internships with contested political campaigns in four states.
“As far as we know, this is the largest student-run fellowship program at Yale and the only program of its kind on campus,” said Dems President Josh Hochman ’18, who has been spearheading the project as it rolls out in the coming months.
Hochman said the idea for the program stemmed from a need to expand the influence of the Dems beyond city and state limits. He explained that because Connecticut was a largely liberal state, elections are often between two democratic candidates or go uncontested. Faced with this reality, Hochman recognized that the skills and talents of volunteers at Yale could be used more effectively.
The Dems contacted gubernatorial, state legislative, mayoral and congressional campaigns in Connecticut, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. They proposed that the campaigns outsource responsibilities to Yale interns who could work remotely from campus. The program, which has not officially gotten underway, will offer 25 individual fellowships during its inaugural year.
Students who are interested in applying for a fellowship position through the Dems can choose from a variety of subfields including media, research, finance, graphic design, organizing and campus organizing.
“I’ve always been looking for ways to get more involved in working on political campaigns, and this Fellows Program offers a great opportunity to work remotely on campaigns in other states,” said Neil Goodman ’20, a student who is interested in the program.
Goodman, who is currently working on Hacibey Catalbasoglu’s ’19 unopposed campaign for Ward 1 Alder, told the News that despite his enthusiasm for campaigning, he notices a lack of opportunities for local volunteering during the academic year. He is excited by the prospect of participating in a campaign without having to wait until the following summer to work on-site.
“We have so much to do on a campaign and we really need all the help we can get,” said Jason Toups ’14, field director for the campaign of Cheryl Turpin for Virginia House of Delegates. “When you think about it, the only thing they can’t do is lead other volunteers and go canvassing.”
Still, Toups stressed the significant impact of on-site community organizing and canvassing on small-scale elections — a response which helps explain political campaigns’ largely positive reception to the nascent Dems program.
Remote internships of the kind being piloted by the Dems would free campaigns up to focus on what they truly need to focus on, Hochman explained, adding that it is for this reason that the Dems believe this model for remote internship opportunities is one that can be exported to campuses across the U.S.
“Nearly every single campaign that I spoke to was receptive to the idea,” Hochman said. “A lot of them do not have enough resources to outsource this work to other people.”
Elias Mastakouris ’20, membership coordinator for the Dems, summed up the goals of the project: “This fellowship provides a unique opportunity for Yale students to oppose the agenda of President Trump and the [Republican Party]. We believe this is a reproducible model that College Democrats across the nation can use to effect tangible change in their communities.”
The College Democrats of America was founded in 1932.