At least a dozen politically inclined students have left Foggy Bottom for the semester to ensure that several red states, including Florida, Georgia and Texas, vote Democratic in November’s election.
Junior Alexa Feldman took the semester off from her studies in the School of Media and Public Affairs to work in her hometown of Austin, Texas, for Senate candidate Rick Noriega.
“This election year is definitely unique, and it’s the best opportunity Democrats have to be successful in Texas, or as we say down here, to ‘turn Texas blue,'” Feldman said.
She said she gets class credit for her internship on Noriega’s campaign but will have to take summer classes in order to graduate on time. In spite of this, she said she would not trade the valuable experience she is having.
“Missing one semester of school is definitely a price I am willing to pay,” she said.
Feldman isn’t the only one of her friends taking the semester off to work on a political campaign. Josh Phillips, a junior, is living in West Palm Beach, Fla., with his grandparents to work on Illinois Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
As a field coordinator, Phillips is a full-time staff member logging more than 80 hours a week for the campaign.
“When I get back to school it’s going to feel like I have so much time on my hands all of a sudden,” Phillips said. “I’ll appreciate the downtime a lot when I get back.”
He said it wasn’t hard to declare himself a part-time student in order to work on the campaign. It required filling out paperwork with SMPA and the political science department and notifying GW Housing of his off-campus arrangements.
Junior Mara Sirbu is also taking a leave of absence from GW this semester to work as the special projects director for Obama’s campaign in Georgia.
Sirbu said her decision to take the semester off was not a difficult one.
“My friends were disappointed that I would miss a semester with them, but no one really tried to talk me out of it,” she said. “I was pretty determined from the primary that this was what I was going to do, so they’ve known for a while.”
Sirbu said her mother was apprehensive about her decision to take time off from school, but her mother was persuaded after hearing the logistics of her plans.
“She was very, very nervous when I told her I was going to take a semester off, but I presented her with all the information on how I was going to still graduate on time and I would be miserable if I wasn’t doing this,” Sirbu said.
Though there is a chance these students will not be on winning campaigns, all three said their experience will be valuable regardless of the election results.
Sirbu said, “Although I would be unbelievably disappointed if the people of the United States did not elect Sen. Obama as the next president, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world.”