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Grassroots experiences inspire political dreams

Leah Campbell, SSH’14, set high standards for her first co-op experience at Northeastern. Her ideal position, she decided, would help her develop grassroots organizational skills and overseas campaign experience while also fostering her personal and educational growth.

That first co-op in Spring 2013 at Oxfam America—whose mission is to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice throughout the world—turned out to be the perfect match.

Campbell, a third-year combined major in political science and international affairs, worked in the organization’s community engagement department, where she helped a team of four organize the national volunteer group, which is spread across 15 U.S. cities. Campbell assisted in choosing these volunteer leaders, disseminated newsletters to help publicize its events, and provided additional daily support.

Her co-op, she said, inspired her to pursue political science and lobby for food justice and gender equality. “The grassroots organization work that I was able to do has made me excited to bring what I’ve learned—from organizing efforts to communicating with the public—back to the classroom,” she explained.

Now, Campbell has taken this invaluable experience with her to the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, a Cambridge, Mass.-based non-partisan organization that seeks to advance women’s equality and representation in U.S. politics. Campbell examines the successful strategies women candidates have used to get elected for a team that educates women running for elected office throughout the country and coordinates with nonprofit partners. In her role for the Barbara Lee Political Office, she prepares a daily media summary and assists the team by tracking several  candidates’ campaigns, including: Michelle Nunn for Senate in Georgia and Wendy Davis for governor in Texas. She also helps update both the Foundation and Political Office websites.

Last month, Campbell told the Twitterverse why she “hearts” co-op. “#iheartcoop because it helped me realize that there are still tremendous opportunities for young people today, even for humanities majors!,” she tweeted.

These rewarding co-op experiences have helped her identify her ideal career path. “I would love to work in government relations for a nonprofit or continue with grassroots organizing,” she said. “I’m extremely comfortable interacting with people, so I’d love to be able to apply those kinds of skills to my career and work as an agent on the ground to get messages out to the public.”

Not only is Campbell active in the community, but she’s also a trailblazer on Northeastern’s campus. A former member of the Northeastern Choral Society and NUStage Musical Theatre, Campbell is a founding member of Pitch, Please!, Northeastern’s premier all-women a cappella group, founded in the fall of 2012. She’s proud of the fact that since its founding, Pitch, Please! has since produced an EP, performed at official university events, and placed third in the Wildcard round for the 2013 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

Campbell has also taken advantage of other experiential learning opportunities at Northeastern. Last summer she participated in a Dialogue of Civilizations program in Argentina, where she studied Spanish language and culture. And this summer, she will participate in a political communications-themed Dialogue program in Greece.