Public Policy and Political Action Career Path
Interested in a career in local, state or D.C. government, whether engaged in party politics or working on public policy for local, regional, national or international agencies? The Public Policy and Political Action career path offers you expertise in governing institutions and political processes, preparing you to make your own contribution to the public good.
PS Majors may be awarded up to two Career Path Certificates of Completion upon graduation. For a Certificate of Completion, a student must complete the Career Path gateway course and four upper division course from the path course list. Find details at polisci.uoregon.edu/career-path.
- Declare PS as your Major and pick your Career Path
- Current PS Majors may also complete the declaration form
- Get started in the gateway course: PS 201 US Politics
- Enroll in upper division courses from the Public Policy and Political Action Course List
- Develop skills in 300-level courses
- Refine skills in 400-level courses
- Check-in with a PS Advisor to be sure you meet PS major and university requirements along the way. Discuss how you can receive PS credit for an internship and consider working toward graduating with PS Honors.
Success stories: where PS degrees have taken our alums
Brooke Goggans has long experience working at the intersection of government and communications. After work in Washington, D.C., Boston, and Austin, she became the co-founder of Mosaic Strategy Partners, a Fort Worth-based Public Affairs and Strategic Communications firm. Mosaic creates targeted political and communications strategies using proprietary software to track data on issues, constituencies and legislation.
Brooke grew up in Sacramento, CA and was attracted to UO by its Nike connections in sports business. But she had always been interested in politics, and only got fired up as a student once a friend asked her, “If politics is your passion, why are you majoring in business?” After switching majors she interned in Salem, worked with various advocacy groups in Eugene and Portland and then interned in Washington D.C. with Senator Gordon Smith. “It was the Senate internship that changed the trajectory of my life,” she says. “I learned that politics doesn’t have to be solely candidate-campaign work. There were hundreds of related careers where I could channel my passions to build a rewarding career.”
“My degree trained me to be a critical thinker,” she adds, and gave her a full suite of skills to handle work in strategic communications: “There are a lot of people who can talk but can’t put a pen to paper and create the ‘product,’ can’t develop, write and present the strategy. This is the golden ticket—the combination of agency, work ethic and capabilities.”
Dr. Rachel Bitecofer is Lecturer in Political Science and Assistant Director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, a liberal arts college in Virginia. In addition to teaching she runs elections polls and does extensive media commentary on politics. “A desire to appear in media outlets as an analyst was one of the main factors that motivated me to earn a PhD in political science,” she writes, “so whenever I am on TV, the radio, or in print, I am living my dream!”
Bitecofer grew up in Washington, D.C. and developed an early interest in the news. When she arrived in UO, she took United States Politics (PS 201) her first term, and “It was love at first sight.” She went on to join the McNair Scholars program as a junior, wrote an honors thesis under the mentorship of Prof. Gerry Berk, and spoke at her Political Science department graduation. The honors thesis experience put her clearly on the path to a PhD, though not just as an academic; she knew all along that she wanted to track and comment on political events in the media. The position at the Wason Center has given her exactly what was looking for, “far surpassing even my most ambitious dreams.”
Even for those who aren’t quite such politics junkies, Bitecofer sees the PS major as opening doors to many fascinating careers. Not only do PS majors graduate “Citizen Ready,” she says, but studies in political science build both the tangible knowledge of public affairs and the “soft skills” that strongly correlate with professional success across the board. Political Science “is a unique degree, and you never know where it will lead you.”
As the Director of Civic Engagement for the League of Conservation Voters, Davis works to increase voting by people often overlooked by political campaigns. The job requires mining vast amounts of voter data, developing registration programs and designing sophisticated computer models to predict voter turnout.
“Communities of color, young people, unmarried women—it used to be campaigns didn’t use money to engage them because they didn’t think it was worth it,” Davis said. “Today, there’s more awareness these communities deserve a voice in the political process and make a difference in deciding Election Day.”
Statistics, regression analysis and number crunching are the new weapons in campaigning. Davis was schooled heavily in them while earning bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics at UO in 2014.
In a political science course on political methodology, he learned how to apply statistical methods to politics, using data to find and target voters who had been overlooked. An economics course on econometrics helped him measure and predict the effectiveness of campaign messages, strategies and funding.
Davis used the political science department’s flexible internship program to take several semesters off to work for a variety of Democratic campaigns. Under the program, he gained valuable real-life experience—and also college credit, for writing a 30-page paper explaining what the experience taught him about political science.
Davis’ day-to-day work is a blur of email, conference calls and collaboration with partners to design programs to get out the vote. Based in the national nonprofit’s D.C. office, Davis runs voter registration campaigns in 20 states, collaborating with partners across his region. They run computer programs to predict how effective their campaigns will be with certain groups and whether their efforts will be worth the expense in terms of voter turnout.
Carly Gabrielson started working for Congressman Peter DeFazio as an intern while at UO, and worked her way up to the position of Campaign Manager for the 2014 and 2016 campaigns. She reports that it is exciting work: “Managing a campaign is a dynamic job and requires a wide range of skills: working with community coalition partners; events, fundraising, and budget management; working within, and adhering to, immediate and longer-term deadlines, such as Election Day; working with a diverse network of supporters and volunteers; and a general ability to make swift decisions and utilize resources in a pragmatic manner.”
Carly grew up in Hawaii and then moved to Eugene before college. She first attended Lane Community College and received an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree to shift to UO. Interested in current events and politics from a young age, she knew she wanted to major in political science and get involved in electoral politics. Pointing to the influence of Professors Deborah Baumgold, John Davidson, Jane Cramer, Daniel HoSang, and Alison Gash, she writes, “The diverse course of study at the University of Oregon expanded my awareness of the direct impact that the role of the federal government has in the lives of individuals, positive and negative. Through internships, I was able to build community connections and develop applicable job skills.” Her degree in political science at UO led smoothly into a local campaign internship, to work with Rep. DeFazio at the U.S. House of Representatives, to running his campaigns today.