“I Want a Younger Generation Inspired to Go into Public Office”

Summer program focuses on nitty-gritty of political campaigns

When it comes to her career aspirations, Ashley Bodden does not mince words: she wants to run for public office.

Students collaborate in campaign class

“Specifically for the U.S. Congress,” says the Suffolk graduate student in professional politics. For two semesters, she has interned for Boston City Councilor—now Council President—Michelle Wu, solidifying her interest in life as an elected public servant. So when Professor Brian Conley, director of the Suffolk’s graduate program in political science, mentioned a University summer lab spotlighting how to run a campaign, Bodden knew she had to sign up.

“I was like, ‘Yes, this is perfect, I really want to get into campaigning,’” Bodden said. “When I mentioned this to Michelle, she was pushing me even more to do this.”

How to run a successful campaign

Bodden is one of seven students participating in Suffolk’s inaugural Summer Institute Campaign Lab, an intensive two-week tutorial on the various aspects of creating and running a successful political campaign. Each day offers students a detailed session on topics ranging from fundraising and lobbying to election law and polling. They also have participated in field trips to sites like Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a lobbying group, and listened to speakers such as U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano and Cambridge City Councilor David Maher.

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano draws a laugh as he shares real-world campaign tips with Summer Institute Campaign Lab students.

“I have a background in the political world on a community level in Boston. When I saw this [campaign lab] I thought it would be an opportunity to connect with a lot of people to see how I can step up as a community organizer or take it to the next level and try to execute change at the state level,” said Shamara Rhodes, a Suffolk graduate student studying crime and justice. “I’ve gotten a lot out of this from the people who’ve been so honest with us about the process.”

Participating students can receive either credit toward a degree or a certificate.

"Accessible to all"

Curating and hosting a campaign lab is an idea that Professor Rachael Cobb, chair of the Department of Government, has been “batting around” with her colleagues for years.

“We had a set of classes we were already teaching like polling, political marketing, and budgeting in Congress. We thought that putting them together in a package would make sense,” Cobb said. “It’s the case that our democracy is complicated, and it’s not easy to understand how to access it. At the same time, it’s easy to teach and to get those basic things across to students. I liked the idea of showing that this is accessible to all. I want a younger generation inspired to go into public office.”

That’s why Cobb wanted the campaign lab, which concludes Friday, to welcome not just Suffolk students, but all advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals. That’s how Nathan Shapiro, a junior at Trinity College in Connecticut, came to Suffolk to learn about campaigns and elections.

“Like a lot of kids with public policy majors, I was looking for an internship, and I found out about this lab on the internet. I talked to the professors who were running it, and I was sold on the idea,” said Shapiro, who is also studying law. “I want to find leadership skills for running a campaign, whether it’s a political campaign for a candidate or relevant to an issue I find interesting. The political climate is such that it’s a good time to find new leaders and get people excited about change and ways to break from traditional political structure and bring a new dimension to leadership. I want to learn more about how the system works.”


Budding politicians work and learn together in campaign lab classroom.

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano draws a laugh as he shares real-world campaign tips with Summer Institute Campaign Lab students.



Greg Gatlin