Category Archives: Politics, Power & Policy Praxis Fieldwork Seminar

Politics, Policy and Power Praxis Fieldwork Seminar (POLS B420)

Instructor: Marissa Golden

Course Description:

This course supported students while they engaged in Praxis fieldwork in organizations that focus on politics, elections and/or public policy. In addition to the 8-10 hours spent at their fieldwork placements, students met for one hour weekly in a Praxis seminar with the instructor and other Praxis students. These seminar meetings provided students with an opportunity to reflect together about their experiences in the field and to helped connect those experiences to political science theory and to academic readings about American politics, policy, and elections.

Taylor Walsh, English, BMC ‘23

Politics, Policy and Power Praxis Fieldwork Seminar

Faculty Advisor: Marissa Golden

Field Site: Michigan Department of State

Field Supervisor: Melissa Smiley

Praxis Poster:

Taylor Walsh_Final Poster


Further Context:

In 2018, Michigan voters elected to create the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. This organization would take on the responsibility of drawing electoral districts. The 13-member commission was designed to give more power to voters as those selected were ordinary citizens, rather than elected officials. In 2020, following the U.S. census, the mapping process began for Congressional, state senate, and state house voting districts. The final maps were presented in December of 2021.

As with many current congressional maps, Michigan’s 2011 map was severely affected by gerrymandering, especially in the greater Detroit area. Currently, there is much debate as to whether the old or new maps give minority voters more voice, especially within Detroit’s black community. In the 2021 maps, there has been a large decrease in black majority districts. While many of these districts have enough minority voters to give a chance to a minority-backed candidate, it is not guaranteed as it was in the 2011 maps.

My job over the past 13 weeks and the purpose of this document is to collect relevant news articles at the local and national level. These articles range from the commission’s creation to the final maps and their subsequent response. I also researched similar commissions from other states, comparing their successes and failures to that of Michigan’s. As this was media coverage available to the public, much of my research was conducted online. I would use tools such as Google Alerts for various terms, predominantly “Michigan redistricting”. I also regularly checked journalists Clara Hendrickson and Sergio Martínez-Beltrán’s Twitter accounts for relevant stories.

My intention with this project is to provide information regarding how the 2020 independent commission was received, with hopes that it will be helpful for future commissions. Many of the commission’s meetings depended upon internet interaction through Zoom meetings, social media, and other online outreach to reach Michigan voters and figure out their next steps. As this was the first independent commission in Michigan- as well as one of the first in the country- the commission was closely monitored nationally as well as locally. In 10 years, online journalism may have transformed from what it is today but considering how quickly social media is taking a forefront in our lives, it is safe to assume internet presence will have a large impact on our lives for years to come. I find it incredibly important to be aware of how the public receives new maps and how to plan for online reactions in the future.

Gabriela Capone, Political Science, BMC ‘22

Politics, Policy and Power Praxis Fieldwork Seminar

Faculty Advisor: Marissa Golden

Field Site: John Fetterman’s Campaign for U.S. Senate

Field Supervisor: Quinn Gomola Mullin

Praxis Poster:

Gabriela Capone_Final Poster


Further Context:

This semester, I participated in Professor Marissa Golden’s Praxis seminar, Politics, Policy, and Power. My fieldwork was an internship on the research team of Fetterman for PA. John Fetterman is Pennsylvania’s current lieutenant governor and is running for the Democratic nomination for the open seat. I have been interning on the research team, primarily transcribing various media clips as well as vetting the campaign’s large donors.


Compiling a database of all the interviews, speeches, debates, and many other appearances Fetterman has made is really important for a campaign. This allows the full time research staff to gather key information surrounding the candidate for debate preparation, crafting statements, goals, and generally keeping a record of what stances or opinions have been made in the past. Having all of this information typed out makes it easily searchable and comprehensible. It is an important part to staying organized and maintaining a campaign.

Donor Vetting:

With many donations coming in through the primary campaigning period, especially in a race for an open seat in a swing state like PA, it is important that a campaign pay attention to who their donors are. For all donations over $500, I vet the donors for four criteria — federal lobbyists, state lobbyists, fossil fuel employees, and foreign agents. If any donors fell in one or more of these categories, their donations would be refunded. Using the four databases and lists on my poster, I checked each of these donors at the end of the quarter. By the time Federal Election Commission Reports were submitted, the campaign would have everything sorted and refunds issued to avoid being associated with any problematic individuals.

Petition Circulator Vetting:

In order to be an official candidate and be included on the primary ballot, every candidate must submit petitions. The laws vary by each state. In Pennsylvania, each candidate needs at least 2,000 signatures from any county and the individuals who collect these petitions (called circulators) must be registered voters in the same party as the candidate they are petitioning for. I used the Democratic National Committee Voter Action Network database to check that the circulators were active Democrats as well as checking the circulators’ municipalities that they are registered to vote in. Pennsylvania has a complicated municipality system and many individuals actually do not vote in the “town” they may live in (ie, Bryn Mawr students who are registered to vote in Bryn Mawr, actually vote in the municipality of Lower Merion Township, because Bryn Mawr is only a village).

I have learned a great deal about campaigns during this semester and have thoroughly enjoyed both Fetterman for PA and the Praxis program. The campaign gave us the opportunity to meet and talk with many different individuals and gave us many experiences. Bryn Mawr and Praxis served as an excellent support system and I am really glad I was able to earn academic credit for my work over these months. I now feel more confident as I apply to jobs in politics and know that this experience will serve me well throughout my future.

Catherine Beveridge, Political Science, BMC ‘22

Politics, Power & Policy Praxis Fieldwork Seminar

Faculty Advisor: Marissa Golden

Field Site: Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Field Supervisor: Ishya Verma

Praxis Poster:

Catherine Beveridge_Final Poster


Further Context:

My Praxis fieldwork site was U.S Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s press office! I worked remotely to help facilitate weekly press conferences and assess the impact of the Senator’s advocacy through tracking TV, print and radio media.

My days started early and could sometimes change at any moment with breaking news from the Senate or back home in New York. This created plenty of high stress, time-sensitive situations. But I enjoyed the adrenaline from it and seeing politics play out in real time was a joy as a student of political science. Press work can be a blend of constituency work and the legislative focused environment that comes with the Hill. We are the bridge between the two in some ways. Press conferences can be platforms for advocates on issues from human trafficking to frontline workers rights to paid leave.

Personally, my time management skills were tested to their limits, and I exceeded my own expectations for handling both my coursework and a rigorous press schedule when Congress is in session. My communication skills also saw plenty of use with weekly phone calls to various media outlets to pitch our conferences on a wide array of topics. I had the opportunity to help draft press releases. These tested my writing skills in a new way by limiting my words to a few sentences or two paragraphs at most to effectively convey the importance of various government programs.

My time with the Senator’s team will be an experience I will cherish for the rest of my professional career. I worked with a wonderful team of interns and staff who had my back, and I had the chance to step up when called upon. I hope to continue my work in politics and law. While I have no larger interest in communications or journalism, I will appreciate the work that local news clerks, anchors, writers, and communications staff all around the country do for our government and our people.