May 14, 2019
By Walter Santiago
Rose Clouston is the Director of Online Trainings at NDTC. In this interview, we go behind the scenes with her at The NDTC headquarters.
Tell us about yourself! What has your professional life looked like and how did you get your start in politics?
The first campaign I worked on was John Kerry’s 2004 presidential. I was a student at the University of Florida, and I was an unpaid intern on the campaign. A few weeks into my internship, after our first big volunteer training, I was hooked on campaigns. I called my mom and told her “Mom, this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.” She had some very reasonable questions like “what about law school?” and “can you get paid to do this,” both of which I brushed off.
As the first presidential election since the 2000 debacle in Florida, the Kerry campaign impressed on me that the work of a campaign doesn’t end when the voter arrives at the polling place. It ends when their ballot is successfully counted. From then on, I was fascinated by, and dedicated to, voting rights, election administration, and voter protection.
After working as a regional field director in the 2006 Florida gubernatorial while still in college, I moved up to the DC area to work at a small Democratic fundraising firm. And then followed my boss over to help launch a Democratic primary campaign for governor in Virginia in early 2008.
There I got to be a Jane of all trades. Or, as one of my colleagues called me, “the Director of Everything Nobody Else Does.” I managed our fundraising records, threw fundraising events, handled HR and operations, was the final copy editor on everything public, and supported our campaign chair (who was basically our campaign manager for that first year) in all things.
After that campaign, I went to grad school and studied international development (especially democratization), working at the National Democratic Institute and International Foundation for Electoral Systems and spending the summer in Nairobi, Kenya developing programs and partnerships for Somali Family Services.
Throughout grad school and a time as the executive office coordinator at international reproductive rights non-profit PAI, I stayed engaged with voting rights issues and volunteered with voter protection programs every election. Shortly after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in its Shelby County v. Holder decision, I joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights to work on the year-round Election Protection program.
I managed the 866-OUR-VOTE voter helpline and worked with partners in Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, and Minnesota to provide on-site assistance to voters on Election Day and advocate year-round for more voter-friendly policies. After providing countless last-minute volunteer trainings in 2014, I led the redevelopment of the volunteer training curriculum and moved us from training our 3,000-5,000 volunteers almost exclusively in-person to a predominantly online training model.
After the election of Donald Trump, I was looking for a more partisan role where I could use and develop my training skills. In NDTC, I found the perfect match.
What is your position at NDTC?
I’m the Director of Online Trainings, so I’m responsible for the Online Campaign Academy. My team develops the online courses and provides support to our online trainees.
What is your favorite part about working at NDTC?
I love being able to play the long game — supporting people around the country who are paving the way for Democratic success in every state (as well as those winning now) — while also getting to know our trainees and seeing the immediate impact of our work.
My favorite part of my day is responding to trainees’ questions in the Online Academy comments or emails to [email protected] I love hearing what’s on [our] trainees’ minds and what issues we can help them solve in applying our trainings to their own campaigns. In a nutshell: Don’t be shy. Post in the comment threads and email us. Whether it’s to say how much you love the trainings, how we can improve, or questions you have in putting them into practice in your race, we want to hear from you.
How do you practice self-care?
I’ve recently joined the Windy City Rollers roller derby team here in Chicago. It offers a great workout and an amazing community of fierce women uplifting one another. I love politics, but in my 30s have realized that I should probably have a bit of my life that is separate from my political work.
On the other side of the spectrum, I also love doing yoga and reading. In 2019, I’m aiming to make it through 50 books. As of late April, I’m about a dozen in, so I have some catching up to do. Recommendations welcome.
If you could tell all potential candidates ONE thing, what would it be?
Falling is learning. It’s something that the trainers tell us in roller derby, and I’m trying to apply that motto across many parts of my life. Sometimes we have to wipe out to really learn the lesson and have it stick. Just get up quickly and apply what you learned.
Coffee or tea?
Favorite tv show?
Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook?
What are you currently reading?
“Who Thought This Was a Good Idea” by Alyssa Mastromonaco
If you weren’t working in politics, what would you be doing?
Biggest pet peeve?
When someone brings treats into the office and someone else finishes the last one and leaves the dirty, empty container out for the kind soul who brought the treat in to clean. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
What is the theme song for your life?
Seems By Queen Sarah Saturday
After the 2016 election, when Rose was looking to transition to a more partisan role she found support by attending Bossed Up bootcamp, a career development workshop for women.
Bossed Up Bootcamp helped Rose see what she wanted in her next step and practice her negotiation skills.
How have you used the skills you learned from Bossed Up Bootcamp to advocate for yourself in the workplace?
I was offered my job at NDTC only a week or two after Bossed Up bootcamp, where I had the chance to practice and get feedback on a salary negotiation scenario. I put that experience to use and was able to negotiate my salary to 7% above the original offer. In the end, I was very pleased with myself, but also excited to join an organization that respected and appreciated women who advocated for themselves when Kelly (our CEO) lauded that I negotiated.