UC alumni on the campaign trail

Photo courtesy of Brian Kennedy

Brian Kennedy ‘15 and Ryan Ferguson ‘16 embrace post-grad life in politics

Faith Carson

facarson@ursinus.edu

During a campaign, it may seem like the candidates get all the attention. However, the people behind the scenes are just as important in making sure their candidate’s campaign is a success. Recent Ursinus graduates Ryan Ferguson and Brian Kennedy are living proof of the importance of campaign workers, and have been working hard for their candidates. Ferguson and Kennedy both credit Ursinus with giving them the drive necessary to make it through this election.

Over the years, Ursinus has fostered many successful and nationally renowned politicians; UC alumni have earned countless accolades in politics, political science, business, and international relations.  

Well-known graduates include Republican Congressman Ryan Costello, New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, former Republican legislator Barrie Ciliberti, foreign service officer and diplomat Hermann Eilts, Republican politician George Geist, US federal judge John William Ditter Jr, Director of the United States Office of Personal Management Linda M. Springer, and Pennsylvania House of Representatives member John Fichter.  

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of alumni who have impacted the political sphere, Kennedy and Ferguson have assumed positions working for local political campaigns.  

Ferguson, who graduated in the class of 2016 with a degree in political science, currently works for NextGen Climate, an organization that works to facilitate awareness on climate change and climate issues.  

Ferguson works specifically As a deputy regional field director, Ferguson builds voter outreach programs on campuses across the Greater Philadelphia Area.  He primarily focuses on working with students, clubs, and school administrators to make sure that college students are ready for the 2016 election.

“I was looking for the opportunity to impact the 2016 election and NextGen Climate was looking for recent grads in the Philadelphia area,” said Ferguson. “I was really excited for the opportunity to work on such an important issue.”

According to Ferguson, the staff at NextGen Climate believes that Republican candidates Donald Trump and Pat Toomey will prevent progress on climate change. In addition, they consider Hillary Clinton the most suitable candidate in terms of prioritizing climate change.

“Hillary Clinton has promised to make clean, renewable energy a priority if she is elected president, and she’ll need senators like Katie McGinty to get it done,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson expressed that Ursinus’s political science program successfully prepared him for the challenges of working in such a competitive field while also fostering a drive to help the surrounding community

“Ursinus gifted me with a passion for political science,” he said.  “I can thank professors like Dr. Evans and Dr. Karreth for inspiring me to pursue a career in politics.”

“My experience at Ursinus also taught me that we all have a duty to serve the community that we live in. That belief led me to work on my first campaign in Montgomery County while attending Ursinus; that same passion for bettering my community is what brought me to NextGen Climate,” he added.

Another recent graduate, Brian Kennedy, landed a position as Democratic politician Josh Shapiro’s direct assistant. Shapiro is a candidate for Pennsylvania Attorney General. Working for Shapiro, Kennedy is in charge of getting the candidate to the right place at the right time with the right materials and information.  

“I drive him, make sure he knows what he’s walking into, then assist and photograph events,” said Kennedy.  

“It’s a tough but extremely rewarding role, and I am very proud to work for someone with a record of reaching across party lines to make government work.”

Shapiro had the chance to open events for Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Michelle Obama, which were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for Shapiro’s crew.

“The presidential campaigns have spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania and that’s led to some exciting opportunities for all of us,” said Kennedy.  “At a rally in Pittsburgh I met Hillary Clinton and got to offer some words of encouragement.”

According to Kennedy, working with a campaign is mentally and physically grueling but well worth the hard work that starts during the college years.  

The summer after graduation, Kennedy spent much of his free time knocking on doors and making phone calls to the Montgomery County Commission for Shapiro and Commissioner Val Arkoosh’s re-election campaigns.  

Through that role, Kennedy was able to meet met Shapiro’s senior team and eventually landed his current position.  He expressed that an Ursinus education helped prepare him for such a busy and challenging job.

“Being a busy student at Ursinus helps you develop a gritty, push-through-it kind of attitude, which is totally necessary for working on campaigns that are long and difficult,” said Kennedy.  

“I also think that involved students at Ursinus have a great opportunity to improve their community by working their interpersonal relationships, which is what you should want to do if you’re going into politics.”