Sophomore Gautam Bajaj has always been interested in making a difference in people’s lives. In middle school, Bajaj was a member of Model UN, keen on understanding the relationships between societies and within the international world. 

At UR, Bajaj is a double major in Political Science and Economics, keen to understand local and national politics, right here at home. “Economics is a vital part of political science because it informs the way our politics work. Even right now, you can look at the debate between gas prices and inflation and see that there is so much misinformation out there.”

Bajaj is very involved within the campus community, something he says is important to his learning. “I’m part of AEPi, a Jewish fraternity near Riverside. I have a lot of friends that encouraged me to join. It’s been a learning experience for me to learn more about Jewish culture, the food, the religion, and it’s been a nice community for me to meet new people and learn.”

Bajaj is also a member of UR’s Quidditch team (the Thestrals), Pride Network, and finds his passion through his memberships on the College Democrats and Committee for Political Engagement (CPE), where he is the secretary and head of the events committee. “This is something I really enjoy. It’s interesting though because its politics and political engagement are important, especially for the younger kids on this campus. We are the future so we have to be informed and involved, otherwise, things are never going to get better.”

Last summer, Bajaj interned on Gubernatorial Candidate Ashwani Jain’s campaign during the primary elections. “I primarily did a lot of canvassing and created maps [of Maryland] so volunteers knew which areas to stay in, which doors to knock on. I wasn’t there in person, but I still got to be part of it and put in the needed effort.”

More recently, Bajaj interned at the Monroe Democratic Committee, where he describes his experience with training and canvassing locally. “I was at the bottom of the food chain, as interns usually are. I spent a lot of time training and learning about how to canvas, vote, how to get people out there to vote, talking to voters constituents, all of that which was interesting.”

In addition to this, Bajaj worked on phone banking. “For candidates that were endorsed by MCDC and higher NYS Democrats, it was important to make sure that campaign contributions were in order and so checking the numbers had to be done. It wasn’t exactly what I expected but it was a learning experience into how campaigns do work and how local organizations are essential to politics.”

Through his experiences, Bajaj was able to get a better idea of what political life was like from interning busy work to research and data collection to active politicking. “Phone banking was not the most fun experience. I got better at it by the time I was done [with my internship], but it was a nerve-wracking experience talking to random people, much less talking to them on the phone, especially when you have anxiety. For the most part, a lot of people didn’t pick up, and that’s because they were either at work, maybe their phone wasn’t working, or whatever the reason was. Most of the people who did pick up were pretty nice, but some were rude. Some people I had good conversations with and were really engaged.”

Despite the fluctuating ups and downs of phone banking, Bajaj had his ‘aha’ moment when he reflected on his experience. “Closer to the elections, I was phone banking a lot for many different candidates. Depending on the day, it could be a different candidate, such as a schoolbard person, a county commissioner, it could be different. For many of the candidates and campaigns that I was calling for, that person won. Knowing that I was part of that, made me feel good. I had tried to call people and talk to them about it, even if they didn’t pick up and even if they didn’t listen, so I contributed, even if just in a small way.”

Bajaj learned a great deal about the different simultaneously operating elements that are necessary to run a political campaign and get voters involved. “These were long experiences, but it was worth it because I got insight into what my life could be like in the future if I decide to pursue politics, whether it be as a candidate myself or a chief of staff or campaign manager. I had a lot of fun!”

Bajaj’s goals are to finish undergrad and gain some workforce experience. “Eventually, I want to go to law school because I think a lot of politicians start this way. I think that law does inform politics and current issues — or maybe I’ll be a lawyer working in public defense or a judge or a senator in Michigan. I don’t know, but my big thing is helping people.”

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