In June 2019, after eight weeks of online training and an intensive, four-day in-person training in Chicago, the inaugural class of NDTC’s Staff Academy graduated and began their work to help create change in Democratic politics. 

We couldn’t be prouder of our Graduates, and that’s why we want to give them a chance to tell people about themselves and their work. 

This week we got the chance to talk to NDTC Staff Academy Graduate Peter Nouhan about his professional and political life, as well as his experience with the Staff Academy. Peter graduated from our digital track and now serves as a Digital Advertising Associate at Anne Lewis Strategies.

What did you do before Staff Academy?

“Before Staff Academy, I was completing my graduate studies at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy. During my time at Georgetown, I also served as a Communications Assistant for the McCourt School, and as the Senior Communications Editor for the Georgetown Public Policy Review.

Prior to Georgetown, I took on several sales, communications, and fundraising roles in my professional life. My first job in Washington D.C. was a summer internship at a think tank called the Economic Innovation Group, where I helped promote nonpartisan tax reform aimed at increasing economic dynamism in distressed communities. Immediately before that, I was the Editor-in-Chief for my undergraduate college newspaper.

How had you been active in your community prior to Staff Academy?

While I was enrolled at Georgetown, I connected with a local delegate running for Maryland’s 20th district. I served as her Communications Coordinator. This meant helping the candidate run her Facebook page and drafting content to promote her activism in the community. Additionally, I spent my summer break in New Hampshire’s 1st congressional district. There I helped a Democratic primary candidate with her call time and fundraising strategy.

What inspired you to apply?

After I finished my graduate program, I was eager to get involved in progressive activism. I wanted to fight for the causes that I care most about. Primarily racial equity, access to affordable healthcare, and greater economic opportunity, to name a few. I applied to the NDTC Staff Academy Program because I was excited to learn about the latest and greatest tactics that progressive activists are using to raise money and get people out to vote to make real change happen. 

What change do you hope to make in your community by being involved in the political process?

I want people in my community to feel like they have the support and resources they need to realize their full potential, to have the freedom to pursue what they are most passionate about and to have the privilege of hope and optimism for a brighter future for themselves and their families.

How has the Staff Academy curriculum helped you to prepare for work on a campaign? 

Staff Academy gave me a strong toolkit of digital and fundraising strategies. Which I’m actually putting to practice as a Digital Advertising Associate for Anne Lewis Strategies. At ALS, all of my clients are either Democratic political candidates or progressive advocacy organizations. All are fighting for the issues that I care most about. In my capacity as an associate, I am helping my clients optimize their digital lead generation and their email fundraising strategy. NDTC helped me acquire the skills and confidence to be an asset to my team and to my clients.

What is a highlight from your time in Staff Academy?

One of my favorite experiences from Staff Academy was when I proposed a digital strategy for a hypothetical political campaign. After I prepared the plan, I pitched it to several Staff Academy leaders acting as campaign managers. I was able to put what I learned from the program into practice and discover new approaches to anticipate and overcome challenges.

What advice would you give to people who want to work on a political campaign?

Know how to be aggressive and humble at the same time. You want to go into a campaign with an open mind. Being open allows you to be comfortable doing whatever it takes to be an asset to your team. Campaign work is high stakes but extremely rewarding. Once you’ve gained the trust and respect of your team, you’ll gain more flexibility to take on more advanced responsibilities that will be even more rewarding.

How does your personal identity empower you to create change in your community? 

As an openly gay man, I know what it feels like to be a marginalized member of my community – especially growing up in rural Michigan. But being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is also a source of strength and pride for me. I’m not on the sidelines.  I’m taking action with others in my community to fight for greater justice and inclusivity for everyone who is treated unfairly.

What would you say to people unsure of whether they can pursue a career in politics? 

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. There is so much to gain from fighting on the frontlines of our American democracy. A few perks for me: Life-long friends, and a greater sense of purpose knowing that I’m involved in something so much bigger than myself.

Interested in applying for Staff Academy? The application for the 2020 Staff Academy Program opens on October 28th, 2019. Find more information about the 2020 program here

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Lily Doctoroff

Lily was raised in Medfield, Massachusetts, a small town outside of Boston. She currently lives in Chicago while she attends college at the University of Chicago studying Political Science and Religious Studies with a concentration in American Politics. She is a member of the Communications team at NDTC.