Ben Weiser outside Jepson Hall

Benjamin Weiser, '22

December 16, 2021
Internships give senior campaign and public policy experience

All eyes were on Georgia. In both of the state’s hotly contested 2020 U.S. Senate races, no candidate won a majority of votes, leading to two runoff elections in January 2021—elections that would determine party control of the U.S. Senate. Benjamin Weiser, ’22, a leadership studies and political science major, found himself at the center of the unfolding national drama.

“I’ve always been interested in public policy and working to resolve issues facing society,” said the senior from the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta. “When Jon Ossoff announced his intentions to run for one of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, I contacted his campaign.”

A University of Richmond Summer Fellowship funded Weiser’s remote internship with the Ossoff campaign in summer 2020. He continued his internship in the fall semester, this time receiving academic credit through the Political Science Department. Political science professor Ernest McGowan served as his faculty adviser.

“I applied outreach strategies I learned in Dr. McGowan’s Campaigns and Elections class to our mobilization efforts,” the University of Richmond Presidential Scholar said. “By September-October, we had a much better idea of how close the race was going to be and how important Georgia would be in deciding the majority in the U.S. Senate. I realized the work I was doing had national ramifications.”

When neither Ossoff nor the incumbent Republican senator received a majority in the election, Weiser and other Ossoff volunteers turned their attention to getting out the vote in the Jan. 5 runoff election. 

During the final few days of the runoff campaign, Weiser joined the Ossoff bus tour. “I worked with the political team throughout the statewide tour on event execution,” he said. “We coordinated with community members on the ground for various events and kept things running on time.”

Describing the campaign as simultaneously exhausting and exciting, he celebrated when Ossoff and fellow Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock won their respective U.S. Senate bids, thereby flipping control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. 

In summer 2021, the rising senior undertook his Jepson internship in the Office of U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff. He worked with the legislative team that helped craft the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that became law in November.

“It was exciting to be part of that, to help make policy on clean energy, transportation alternatives, highway infrastructure, and labor issues,” Weiser said. “I used skills I learned in leadership studies classes, such as critical thinking, to draft memos and develop policy. Much of what I learned about 20th-century urban development in Dr. Hayter’s Reimagining Richmond class was applicable to the infrastructure issues we sought to address.”

During his internship, he reflected on Ossoff’s leadership. The senator’s genuineness and focus on policy as a way to improve society appealed to him, he said.

A leader himself, Weiser has worked to improve life on campus. Currently he is a member of the President’s Student Cabinet and the Jepson Corps. He said he found his work as a Richmond College Student Government Association senator in the role of disability services liaison particularly rewarding.

“Having a hearing loss since birth forced me to advocate for myself and motivated me to seek places where I can make a difference,” he said. “I worked with Student Development on establishing the office of Disability Services and served on the committee that hired the first director.”

After graduating this December—a semester early—Weiser said he hopes to find work on Capitol Hill, in a 2022 campaign, or with a public policy think tank. 

“Coming at leadership from so many different disciplines in the Jepson School has helped shape my world view and will guide me in how I pursue leadership.” 

Update: In April, The Jepson School named Weiser a 2022 Jepson Scholar, awarding him an all-expenses-paid scholarship to attend the University of Oxford, where he will pursue a Master of Public Policy.