Students Ditch The Books To Hit The Trail

by Brianna Gurciullo

Senior DJ Sigworth took a semester off to become a field organizer for Obama for America in Hilliard, Ohio.
Media Credit: Gabriella Demczuk | Senior Staff Photographer
Senior DJ Sigworth took a semester off to become a field organizer for Obama for America in Hilliard, Ohio.

Several students sacrificed a semester of classes, gave up graduating with their friends and, in many cases, worked 17-plus-hour days to propel their candidates' sprint to the campaign finish line.

Just two months after joining the Obama for America reelection campaign, sophomore Miles Selib was charged with overseeing voter registration and absentee ballot drives in 13 Iowan counties.

After an intense summer, which included a visit from President Barack Obama on his second day of volunteering, Selib decided to stay to stay on the campaign trail in Iowa throughout the fall.

“I would never sacrifice or regret this experience for a little extra time in college,” the political communications major said about his time off, stressing the importance of the battle ground state. “It’s crazy that six electoral votes can really make a difference, but Iowa, election after election, has been the deciding factor.”

The Vermont native said his job seemed lonely and demanding at times. He often worked long hours on little sleep, compiling information and setting up voter registration drives by himself.

But ultimately, he said the experience outweighs the drawbacks. Selib met Vice President Joe Biden in September, riding 85 miles in the vice presidential motorcade from Des Moines County to the campaign office in the city of Ottumwa, Iowa, where Selib’s Sigma Chi fraternity brother Nathan Felton worked this semester. Felton, a junior, also met the vice president.

“I was so flustered that I was making these terrible jokes, and I almost called him Bob,” Felton, an organizational finances major, said.

The Indiana native decided to move to Iowa about a week after he was invited to join the Obama team.

Like Selib, Felton worked as a field organizer and often campaigned from 8 to 1 a.m. seven days a week, overseeing the area’s democratic activists who registered voters and organized absentee ballots.

“To work in a battleground state especially is, one, a big honor and, two, a huge responsibility. It’s a really intense job,” Felton said. “Nothing I did could have prepared me for just how grueling the work is.”

An Illinois native, Courtney Corbisiero joined the Obama team a year and a half ago in May 2011. She coordinated the state campaign’s blog and its Facebook and Twitter pages while taking courses at GW last fall.

“The things I was learning in class were things I was actually doing for the campaign, and I couldn't pass up an opportunity to dedicate the next year of my life to what I was learning – full-time,” Corbisiero said about a media and politics class in an email. “It's amazing to be here, in the trenches, where I get to see organizing at its finest first-hand."

In December 2011, the junior moved to Chicago to work full-time at Obama’s campaign headquarters. One week into her internship, she shook the president's hand.

The political science major relocated to Columbus, Ohio in July to organize digital campaign efforts and plans to return to GW in January to graduate sometime in 2013.

While some students took off entire semesters to campaign, one student sacrificed his weekends this fall to fly to New England and throw his support behind Romney.

Senior Christopher Oman, an Iowa native, stayed at GW and traveled to Boston every weekend to monitor Romney’s press events, fact-check speeches and research information about Obama.

“We dig up some dirt on them that we can use in TV ads, radio ads or that Governor Romney can use in the debates,” Oman said. “If they say something stupid, you got to hammer them on it.”

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