Introducing our Fall 2016-17 USF in Washington, D.C. Fellows

USF in DC participants are undergraduate students selected for a semester-long program in Washington, DC that integrates a full-time internship with relevant coursework taught by USF faculty and University of California Washington Program (UC DC) faculty. Students choose from a range of elective courses and internship opportunities that meet their interests and skill sets and spend their semester engaging with peers from across the country in the heart of the capital, where they will live, learn, and explore all that DC has to offer. Meet our current cohort of USF in DC students and learn about their hopes and expectations for the coming semester.



Ali DeFazio ’18

Internship: Brookings Institution

Ali DeFazio is a junior at the University of San Francisco. While in D.C., she will be interning for the Brookings Institution, voted “Best Think Tank in the World” for the last nine years by the Global Go To Think Tanks Report. Ali says that getting to the front of the bagel line before the 8 AM crowd is the “Best Feeling in the World” voted by USF students. In addition to her internship in D.C., Ali plans to make it on the background of NPR’s “Live in Concert” and go to every Smithsonian.


Sydney Abel ’17

Internship: Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Sydney Abel is a senior this year at USF, majoring in Politics, minoring in Legal studies. When she isn’t playing rugby for USF’s champion woman’s team, you can find her slack lining at Golden Gate Park or walking along one of San Francisco’s many beaches. An avid traveler, Sydney transferred to USF from San Diego but not before she studied abroad for a year in Maastricht, Netherlands. Someday she would love to be voted into a public office, or just travel the world. Never one to miss a traveling opportunity, once she heard about USF in D.C., she knew that this program was just right for her. Eager to change the world for the better, she wants to learn everything there is to know about Washington and the political process.


Guadalupe (Lupita) Garcia ’18

Internship: Revolution Messaging

Lupita Garcia is a Sociology Major and triple minor in Criminal Justice, Public Service and Community Engagement, and Chican@-Latin@ Studies. While in D.C. she will be interning with Revolution Messaging as a Digital Strategy/Client-Service intern where she will be working on advertising projects for campaigns using mobile messaging and social media. Through her participation in USF in D.C., she hopes to gain the skills that will prepare her to gain a career in public policy advocacy and continue to cross borders and discover home.


Gabbi McDaniel ’17

Internship: UN Population Fund

As a senior International Studies major, Gabbi McDaniel will be applying her USF education in the field as an intern for the UN Population Fund. USF in D.C. will allow her to pursue her ideal internship, take classes on politics and advocacy, and develop a network within our Nation’s capital. She is looking forward to experiencing everything Washington D.C. has to offer especially during a Presidential election.


Diana Conteras Chavez ’17

Internship: Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund

This fall Diana will be interning with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is excited to learn more about immigration policy and advocacy in D.C. Since it is her first time in D.C., Diana is thrilled to see the monuments and museums, and try out all the new brunch spots!


 Tara Kahn Sac ’17

Internship:  Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Tara Khan is currently pursuing a degree in International Studies with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and focus in Global Politics & Societies. Following graduation, she hopes to relocate to Washington D.C. and work for the U.S. government while also studying for the Foreign Services test. She is spending her semester in D.C. working on Capitol Hill, interning for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Working in the House of Representatives has been an extremely rewarding and eye-opening experience, none of which would have been possible without the Newmark Scholarship. Being a Newmark Scholar has convinced her that she made the right choice in her decision to pursue a career in politics.



Assala Mami ’18

Internship: Center of American Progress

Assala is a Politics major with a double minor in Legal Studies and French Studies. She has an interest in foreign affairs and public policy and is excited to get to know the political scene in D.C. While in the  nation’s capitol, Assala plans to visit all the monuments and museums, of course and take trips to neighboring states.


What Narrative Will Emerge from the National Conventions?

Tenoch Flores

Tenoch Flores
Adjunct Professor, Political Communications
Master of Public Affairs and Practical Politics

During my time as Communications Director for the California Democratic Party, I was responsible for developing and implementing the message and narrative for a total of five annual state party conventions, as well as for the California delegation to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in 2012. This month, both of the nation’s main political parties are preparing to hold their quadrennial national conventions in Cleveland (RNC) and Philadelphia (DNC). Here’s what I can tell you about working to set and advance a narrative during the largest political event of the season: it’s not easy.

Even in the age of social media, custom news feeds and unprecedented personal access, the national party conventions represent the single greatest opportunity both political parties have to project a narrative about their party and their candidates to the electorate. Almost every political observer will be watching and a sizable portion of voters will take in at least the headlines and the main themes that emerge. Continue reading

Why should we care about campaigns?

Applications for the Master of Public Affairs program closes March 1 – apply today!

Lauren FeuerbornLauren Feuerborn
Master of Public Affairs Candidate ’17

As a first year Master of Public Affairs candidate with a personal interest in campaigns and the fact that it is a campaign year, my electives so far have been Campaign Theory, Campaign Organization and Management, and Grassroots and Organizing — a perfect fit for me.

At our initial meeting in the Campaign Theory class taught John Brooks, we had a group discussion about our central question — do political campaigns matter? There are various opinions on whether they do or do not and to what extent those arguments might be true. The focus of that class was about how we can determine the degree to which campaigns actually do what they were designed to.

What is so fascinating about studying the technical aspects of campaigns while real campaigns are running, are the highlighted differences between theory and reality. We live in a world where we have access to so much information and yet it is almost impossible to decipher what is fact and what is fiction. Huge terms like public funding, Super PAC (political action committee), and special interest get thrown around a lot. But what do these words truly mean? There is the technical, legal definition and then there is reality. As a group we analyze the choices campaigns make, the actions and in-actions taken and results form these decisions. Lucky for us these political campaigns do not operate in a vacuum so we can evaluate them within a context of history, in relation to the media and in opposition to each other.

During the current Republican and Democrat debates, I recognize strategies I discussed in my Campaign Organization and Management class taught by Donnie Fowler. In that class we analyze why we have campaigns and why people run for office. For the first time, I found myself more aware because I knew that each move the candidates made was calculated and meant to steer the audience in a certain direction. Despite studying political science and watching countless political shows, I had a different appreciation for the political campaign.

As primary and caucus season begins, we see the electorate cast votes for candidates that may ultimately be our next president. Our class will continue to have material to work with as these elections get closer and more contested.

As a young, educated human being who wants to make a difference in this world through the avenues I have access to, I know that who I vote for can change how our political landscape changes. I also know that there are great forces driving issues that may not be in my best interest. Campaigns are the mechanism by which we elect our leaders, so if we want policies changed or different interests represented we need to pay attention.

That’s ultimately the goal of graduate school, right? Or more broadly life in general. To learn more about things that impact the world surrounding me.  Sometimes it takes a combination of factors to understand why you should pay attention. Campaigns are well organized machines that perpetuate our political system. Caring about how campaigns work allows me to contribute more to my education and actively participate in the political process.

In my Grassroots and Organizing class, taught by Nicole Derse, co-founder of 50+1 Strategies, my classmates and I have have the opportunity to participate in the Nevada caucus later this month. This is just another example of our teachers going above and beyond to provide us students the opportunity to put what we’ve been learning into real world practice, again blending theory and practicum. This will be the first time many of us are involved in caucusing. Stayed tuned for a blog post covering this experience!

A generous donation helps us to fund students like the ones in the Organizing and Grassroots class be able to attend events that develop and strengthen their education and experience as a graduate student. Donate today.

Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) Immersion into D.C. and Campaign Research

Enrique Aguilar, Master of Public Affairs candidate, USF

Enrique Aguilar
Master of Public Affairs candidate ’16

The Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) candidates have the option every year to apply for a week long immersion class based in Washington, D.C. Led by USF Politics Professor Ken Goldstein, the DC Immersion program for MOPA students is designed to introduce students to the methods used to develop, target, and deliver messages in election and advocacy campaigns as well as in the policy process. Blending theory and practice, students met in class, heard from speakers, and made site visits in the nation’s Capitol as they learned how different tools are utilized by political professionals. Students were required to synthesize the day’s material through applied exercises and the creation of actual work products.

The final product of the week for this year’s cohort was based on a campaign assignment that split the participants into two groups: Democrats and Republicans. Each group received a candidate who is running for a Senate seat in Florida’s 2016 election. The Democratic group received a Democratic candidate and conducted opposition research on the Republican opponent, as well as researched their own candidate. The Republican team did the same thing: conducted opposition research on the Democratic opponent and researched their own Republican candidate.

Once the research was completed, both groups created their own polling memos with several themes they determined based on the research they conducted. This polling memo was the basis for a survey that both groups worked together to craft, which was then sent out to residents of Florida via email through a partnership with a national political consulting group.

Once the data was received from the survey, the groups worked with their Democratic or Republican teammates and created a presentation that highlighted the significant survey results and how that information could potentially change the (mock) race. It is important to note that neither candidate in the Florida race was involved in this project and the purpose was solely academic and provided our students with practical, and portable skills to set them apart in the workforce. Enrique Aguilar participated in the 2016 MoPA DC program and shares his experience with us.

Although I do not possess the political campaign experience of some fellow students in the Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) program, I do have a background in political science and international studies, which led me to this graduate program on a quest to gain practical skills to complement my undergraduate education in political theory. The MoPA DC immersion program was a great opportunity to learn about political opposition research and personally experience some of the challenges of working on a political campaign.

On arrival day, Professor Ken Goldstein welcomed our small group to his home where we enjoyed a delicious dinner with his family. Brett Di Resta, one of a handful of opposition researchers in the country, was also present at dinner. Both of them gave us words of encouragement before teaching us their challenging one-week program, normally taught in semester-long courses by Di Resta at George Washington University and Professor Goldstein in the USF in DC program.

After we had a full day of learning about campaigns, we were split in our groups for the main project. I was in the Democratic group, which meant my group and I researched our own Democratic candidate, Congressman Patrick Murphy, while conducting thorough opposition research on the Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis. From this research we wrote a detailed polling memo with ten themes we noticed about the opponent based on the evidence at hand. We condensed this list down again to come up with five compelling statements against DeSantis and then went into a survey. Residents of Florida received the survey via email and were chosen based on a random sampling of email addresses. Survey respondents answered basic demographic information, we tested their political knowledge and interest, and used our five statements to determine if likely voters were influenced by our statements, and therefore make a difference in the campaign. After critically analyzing the survey data, we presented our findings to Professor Goldstein, his colleague Di Resta, and the rest of of DC classmates. Our survey showed that residents of Florida found our candidate, Congressman Patrick Murphy (D) more favorable and more likely to vote for him than Ron DeSantis.

A memorable moment of this trip to Washington, D.C. was when my group was gathered around a table doing opposition research and writing a memorandum, while also trying to watch President Obama’s last State of the Union address on television. It was hard to believe that this was happening near the UC Washington Center where my group was working on our project.

In such short time this course taught me skills and gave me insight from experienced professionals that will be useful when thinking about my career choices after graduation. Having spent a week in Washington also gave me a small preview of what to expect if I pursue a career in our nation’s Capitol. The chilly evening walks around the National Mall were spectacular, but more importantly they were a time for self-reflection to think about why, through public policy, I am able to promote the common good and advocate for social justice.

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Enrique Aguilar was one of thirteen participants in the 2016 MoPA DC Immersion program. A generous donation in any amount helps fund student opportunities that Enrique was able to experience.

Apply here to the Master of Public Affairs program. Applications close March 1.

Elections and Democracy – San Francisco Style

Corey Cook headshot

Corey Cook 
Corey Cook, Professor of Politics is currently on leave but is still a critical observer of local, state and national politics. Professsor Cook regularly contributes to the McCarthy Center blog while he establishes the School of Public Service at Boise State University.

As my friend Jon Bernstein pointed out in a Bloomberg View piece last year, the timing of our elections can have a profound consequence for policy and governance. For instance, the specific timing of the economic crash in 2008 had important implications for President Obama’s agenda. Had the recession started sooner, unemployment would have likely bottomed out before the president assumed office (rather than in October of his first year). In that scenario, the Tea Party summer might have never occurred and John Boehner is still Speaker, if not Nancy Pelosi. Alternatively, had the recession started just a few months later (unemployment began rising in May of 2008 before spiking between the election and inauguration) most certainly the 2008 election would have been closer and the Democrats would likely have gained far fewer seats in the Congress. In other words, a later recession, and there is probably no Affordable Care Act or second Obama administration, an earlier recession, and there is likely no Tea Party revolt. In either case, Obama still wins the 2008 election, but the meaning of that election – the size of the mandate, the context in which the new executive takes office and governs – is quite different.

So what does this have to do with San Francisco?

Next week, somewhere between one third and two-fifths of San Francisco registered voters will participate in a municipal election. It’s a sleepy election. Of the five citywide races, three involve incumbents running unopposed, the mayor will win re-election easily against underfunded challengers, and one race, the election for county sheriff, is considered competitive, though it likely won’t be close. Instead, most of the attention on election night will be focused on a single supervisorial district (which will reportedly exceed $1 million in campaign spending) and a handful of hotly contested ballot measures. You might suspect that San Franciscans overwhelmingly approve of the job that Ed Lee is doing as mayor and endorse his policies, and surely his supporters will make that claim next week, but that would ignore the context of the election.

Make no mistake, Ed Lee will win handily and his supporters will declare it a clear affirmation of his policies. But the reality is that San Francisco voters remain conflicted. While the mayor is credited for presiding over a sustained economic boom (unemployment fell from over 9% to a shade over 3% during his five years in office), San Franciscans remain deeply troubled by the skyrocketing cost of living, the displacement of lower and middle income residents, and a general loss of community. They are dissatisfied with the state of transit and infrastructure and the failure of the city to adequately address homelessness.

Just over ten months ago, when leading contenders to challenge the mayor contemplated taking the plunge, the mayor’s solid poll numbers and extensive (some might say excessive) campaign war chest dissuaded entry into the race. He was coming off a successful fall election and about six months of good press. But since that time, it’s been anything but smooth sailing. One of the unforeseen consequences of the shift from a majority runoff to a ranked choice election is that a late insurgency (like that waged by Tom Ammiano against Mayor Willie Brown in 1999) are all but precluded. It’s not enough for someone to hold the mayor under 50% and take a shot in a runoff. Instead, an insurgent candidate would have to win outright in November, a tall task. But were the election six months from now, I wonder if the mayor would face a far stiffer challenge. And, as is always the case, his detractors are likely to claim some victories of their own in down-ballot contests and on some of the ballot measures.

“Elections Matter”

To quote president Obama, “elections matter”. But our interpretations of election results are typically vast overreaches that depend too much on the randomness of the timing of an election. And if history is any guide, the battle over which faction “won” is likely to be as hotly contested after the results are announced as before. As Bernstein writes, “if we see (election outcomes) as registering the preferences of voters on the issues and regard them as definitive, then we weaken democracy.” While those candidates who emerge victorious on election day have earned the legal mandate to govern, let’s not presume that voters have endorsed the victors’ positions on every issue and embrace the simplistic notion promulgated every four years that we have effectively “handed over the keys of the car.” Democracy demands much more than that.

Election Day Reflection: Supporting Stevon Cook’s Campaign for Board of Education

“”Our campaigns have not grown more humanistic because candidates are more benevolent or their policy concerns more salient. In fact, over the last decade, public confidence in institutions- big business, the church, the media, government- has declined dramatically. The political conversation has privileged the nasty and trivial. Yet during that period, election seasons have awakened a new culture of volunteer activity. This cannot be credited to a politics inspiring people to hand over their time but rather to campaigns, newly alert to the irreplaceable value of a human touch, seeking it out. Finally campaigns are learning to quantify the ineffable- the value of a neighbor’s knock, of a stranger’s call, the delicate condition of being undecided- and isolate the moment where a behavior can be changed, or a heart won. Campaigns have started treating voters like people again.”- Sasha Issenberg, Victory Lab

As campaign workers we canvassed the city, precinct by precinct.

As campaign workers, we canvassed the city, precinct by precinct.

The last ten months have been quite the journey in supporting my friend Stevon Cook’s campaign for San Francisco Board of Education for the November election.  From attending an intimate house party back in January in his apartment where he formally announced to 30 of his closest friends he was launching the campaign, to these last few weeks of early morning and late night voter outreach and canvassing, this has been an intense, memorable, and impactful community-building experience. My role in the core campaign team has primarily consisted of field organizing and voter outreach, which includes targeting key areas of the city to generate support for his candidacy. The last few weeks have been packed with precinct-walking, campaign literature distribution, and speaking to voters all over the city leading up to November 4th .

San Franciscans often say ours is a “small city”- it certainly doesn’t feel that way while canvassing block by block, precinct by precinct to generate support for our candidate in a city-wide election. While precinct sizes vary, I’d estimate that the average precinct is comprised of about 200-300 homes. If working in pairs, two people can complete an average-sized precinct in about three or four hours. Over the last few months, our team has collectively walked dozens of precincts, distributed tens of thousands of pieces of campaign materials, secured pivotal endorsements from elected officials and political clubs, and expanded our reach to increase visibility and support leading up to tonight.

One of the lasting lessons I’ve learned throughout this experience is that every prospective voter we speak with matters, from those first 1000 registered voters who lent support to get Stevon qualified to appear on the November ballot before the June deadline, to those that will vote for him throughout this evening.  While the year has been a blur of campaign madness, before my involvement in this race, I had not reflected on the full journey for a campaign team to simply have their candidate listed on the ballot and all the work this process entails leading to election day.  In hindsight, more than anything, I’ve learned to appreciate that process as I have had the privilege to experience the full cycle of this race from campaign inception date to election day. As a native San Franciscan, graduate of SFUSD K-12 schools, and having the privilege to call Stevon a colleague and friend over the last five years, I can think of no better candidate for the San Francisco Board of Education, and I’m thankful to have been part of this journey leading up to today’s election.
Fernando Enciso-Márquez
Coordinator of Community Partnerships