Curricular materials created for the 2016 SAIL seminar:
- Examines what kinds of jobs and skills students think are required for those who want to work on a congressional or presidential campaign
- Exposes students to job ads and identified differences in the perception and reality of campaigns
- Allows students to practice assignments they may come across during a campaign
Note: Content adapted from original curricular project
I have used the module in my course “Campaigns and Elections”, a class designed for upper-level undergraduates. The module is taught as a stand-alone unit but it is certainly feasible to teach it as a sequence of exercises. Students should have some background knowledge in American government.
I want my students to know:
- Jobs available for those who want to work on political campaigns.
- Professional and technical skills required to work on campaigns, particularly at the national level, and for other jobs in the political field.
- How to identify the formal and informal resources to obtain technical skills.
- How to build, organize, and analyze campaign-related data.
- A Multidisciplinary skillset is needed for many jobs in the political field.
Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals
Students need to analyze what their current strengths and weaknesses are if they apply for political campaigns and how they can address their weaknesses to make their applications more competitive. Students also need to evaluate how their ideas of campaign work aligns with reality.
Multidisciplinary Analysis Skills Goals
Students who take this course are naturally focused on the political aspects of campaigns. However, a lot of strategic decisions will be based on a quantitative analysis of where, when, and how resources should be allocated.
Other Skills Goals
Students who are not familiar with spreadsheets will become familiar with how to set up data.
At the beginning of this module, I conducted a pre-test to see what students think campaigns are looking for in job candidate. I asked the following questions:
- What kinds of full-time jobs do you think are usually advertised for those who want to work on a congressional or presidential campaign?
- What kinds of skills and professional backgrounds do you think are political campaigns looking for in job candidates? Where can the skills you identified be acquired?
- What kinds of technical skills and what type of software knowledge do you think will be required for some of the jobs on the campaign trail?
The results of this exercise were not surprising. Most of the skills listed were more general in nature, from time management, communication skills, writing skills, etc. Aside from the campaign manager, students listed jobs such as communications director, field director, and office manager. We then looked at other typical jobs of larger campaigns. I emphasized the roles of finance director/fundraiser, campaign treasurer, and technology manager. All of these roles require knowledge of appropriate software.
The second part of this module consisted of looking at actual job ads with students. A link is provided below. We specifically focused on the kind of software knowledge and the ability to read and analyze statistical data that is required for some of the jobs. We then followed up our discussion by identifying specific programs and courses offered at our college where students can learn the necessary skills.
The third component of this course was to look at specific software programs that campaigns use. We examined freely available options and those that can be purchased. Some of the latter allow for free live demos. We discussed how spreadsheets are set up and how they can be interpreted. We ended this module by discussing the rapidly growing political data market that requires multidisciplinary skillset to work with.
Outcomes and Significance
- I think this section fits well when microtargeting and data mining is discussed.
- When you discuss where technical skills can be acquired, it’s certainly good to discuss the importance of internships, reading relevant books outside students’ courses, and working on your own with relevant software.
- For another assignment where students examined a campaign for the U.S. Senate, students had to identify certain types of voters (demographic groups, persuadable voters, non-voters who may be convinced to come out and vote, etc.). In the future I would link such exercise specifically to this new module.
This part still needs improvement. Next time I will conduct a post-test where I can better assess the learning outcomes. At this point, we only discussed the skills and jobs that students did not think about much and how they can acquire these skills without putting the outcomes in writing.
From the discussion we had I can say that students were surprised about the level of technical sophistication that campaign jobs require, even at the basic level. For example, students found it interesting to see how many jobs asked for familiarity with SPSS, R, Stata or other software.
I think overall the module motivated students to strengthen some of their skills and to look at actual job ads.