Barr Benyamin began discussing politics with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with his father at a young age. His interest in the election process was cemented with the Bush-Gore race of 2000. Now, a senior majoring in political science and business administration, Benyamin has spent his summer interning with the Republican National Committee.
“I’ve been very passionate about politics for a long time. I’ve considered it as a career for a while,” Benyamin said. “I feel like this summer really affirmed it in my mind. I find it fascinating. Work is never boring. I feel like I have a purpose. I’m working toward something productive rather than just working.”
This summer, the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics paired at least 30 USC students, including Benyamin, with internships to give them hands-on experience with politics, according to Arthur Auerbach, internship coordinator for “Directed Governmental and Political Leadership Internship” (POSC 395). The course is designed to mix practical experience students receive from their internships with professional skills, such as how to interview and craft resumes.
“The one thing I push with students is that they really need to distinguish themselves from other students in terms of taking the next step post-graduation,” Auerbach said. “The main thing is to gain some real-life work experience so they have a better sense of what they want to do after they graduate.”
Aaron Taxy, a junior majoring in international relations, began interning with Congressman Howard Berman’s (D) re-election campaign in January. He said his time with the campaign so far has already given him valuable experience, including working on senior outreach before the June primaries, doing research and staffing events.
“Since I’ve been on the campaign since January, they’ve definitely given me a really good amount of responsibility,” Taxy said. “They generally like to give interns greater responsibilities because they’re there more frequently than volunteers.”
Benyamin worked primarily on web advertisements, doing everything from research to video editing, he said.
“I’ve really learned a lot. Anyone that tells you that they haven’t is lying,” Benyamin said. “I’ve learned running a political campaign is a lot more intricate and difficult than it looks. You have hundreds of people behind the scenes doing things that you never even think about.”
Both Taxy and Benyamin said their internship experiences have given them an understanding of politics that cannot be achieved simply by taking political science courses.
“You can read the news, you can watch the pundit analyze and analyze,” Taxy said. “Only when you’re there, in the moment, can you understand how the internal operation works and just how every piece matters and the success of the election comes down to every single person doing their jobs.”
Alex Yebri, a senior majoring in political science, had planned to spend his summer studying for the LSAT when he was offered a position with Mitt Romney’s campaign in Boston. He decided to push back his LSAT plans and to take an internship with the communications team, where he organized press briefings and was a main contact on the press line.
“I was going to put politics on the back burner and focus on studying for the LSATs, but when you get an opportunity like this, you can’t pass it up,” Yebri said. “After a couple days of deliberating, I had to say yes.”
Taxy plans to continue interning part-time with Congressman Berman through the election to see the campaign all the way to the end.
Though he said he does not know what he plans to do after graduating, this internship has provided him with skills and experience to help him in the future.
“I don’t know what kind of political job would best suit me, but I’m loving it. I love reaching out to the community. I love the intellectual aspect of policy-making,” Taxy said. “Even if I don’t go into politics after school, this experience will be unbelievably valuable to my future.”
Yebri said he still plans to pursue a career in law but has not entirely ruled out continuing to work in politics after his experience with Romney’s campaign.
“Working on a campaign is one of the must fulfilling things because, in the end, you feel like you really made a difference and helped a cause greater than yourself,” he said. “Whether it’s a career or something in your free time, I think you’ll get something out of it greater than any other profession.”