In the morning, they were encouraged to use their gifts and talents to positively influence a nation that has become increasingly politically polarized.
In the afternoon they learned how to do it from a bevy of prominent political leaders and heavyweights.
In between, they talked about the future of the Republican and Democratic parties, built their networking skills, learned how to turn their internship into a job, and got advice on how to drive social change.
Welcome to the fifth annual Mid-Atlantic Political Intern Summit (MAPIS), presented by the Rowan Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship (RIPPAC) on August 4. In total, nearly 130 students doing internships in politics, government and advocacy came to Rowan this summer. University’s Business Hall for a one-day summit designed to hone their skills in pursuing careers in politics, leadership, and government.
“At a time of hyper-partisanship and widespread public cynicism with politics, MAPIS stands out as a place where students from across the political spectrum can come together for political discussion, leadership training and networking,” said Ben Dworkin, Founder and Director of RIPPAC.
“These are many of the sharpest, most committed and ambitious members of their generation. Within the next decade, we will see absolutely elected officials, top bureaucrats and elite political agents emerging from among the students who have joined us at MAPIS.”
Currently, students are interning in six different states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Maryland and Washington DC), and students attend 48 different colleges and universities, as well as nine different high schools, in 13 states.
During the morning sessions of the summit, interns from Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-1) and Matt Denn, former Attorney General of Delaware, who delivered the keynote address, heard, “The Challenges Facing America and Why Young People Need to Be Involved.”
A lively networking session — “Your network is worth gold,” Dworkin told the interns while encouraging them to connect — was followed by breakout sessions that focused on topics ranging from the future of the Democratic and Republican parties to finding a job in Washington, DC lobbying for the art of disagreeing without being obnoxious.
A career networking lunch, where interns could “talk” and receive career advice from 16 different presenters, was followed by three presentations featuring:
MAD Global Strategy founder Mike DuHaime, who was previously political director of the Republican National Committee (“From Intern to Running a Presidential Campaign: Lessons for Success in Political Life”);
Demos President Tafia Smith Butler, formerly of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (“Driving Social Change”);
And Dworkin (“Now what? Turning your internship into a job.”)
Other presenters included: Mary Campbell Cruz, Norcross chief of staff; Neil Eicher, a noted health care expert and lobbyist; Brendan Gill, an influential political strategist who led statewide campaigns for NJ Gov. Phil Murphy and Senator Cory Booker; Seth Hahn, executive director of the NJ Assembly Majority Office; and veteran political strategist Stacy Schuster, founder and executive director of Women for a Stronger New Jersey.
Dworkin noted that DuHaime “started out as an intern and 13 years later he ran a national presidential campaign.” DuHaime has held senior campaign positions for President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, and many others.
The same can happen with interns attending the summit, Dworkin told the group.
“In 12 years, one of you will be in an elected office,” Dworkin said, adding that statistics show interns are hired for jobs 60 percent of the time.
“Your internship is one long job interview.”
MAPIS, a signature event for RIPPAC, exemplifies the Institute’s mission in action.
“We are committed to developing the workforce for democracy and this is a shining example of how we are pursuing that goal,” he said.