Jennifer Browne (‘21) recently completed The Campaign School at Yale University, a nonpartisan, issue-neutral leadership program whose mission is to increase the number and influence of women in elected and appointed office in the United States and around the globe.
Each summer for more than 20 years, Yale’s Campaign School accepts a class of approximately 80 students – comprised mostly, but not entirely, of women – who are considering running for office, managing campaigns, or organizing communities. Participants have ranged from local business leaders and campaign volunteers to elected officials and aspiring political candidates. All of the instructors are women, and many of them are graduates of the program. The week-long event includes comprehensive courses and lessons on everything from fundraising, determining vote goals, digital advertising, paid communications, predicting turnout, developing a political message, and media training, among others.
“I really enjoyed it. I wish I could have done it in person,” said Browne, who was originally accepted to attend The Campaign School in the summer of 2020 before that year’s session had to be canceled due to the spread of Covid-19. “It really felt like a crash course for me for everything. Truly, every part of it was something I learned from.”
The Campaign School’s packed 12-hour days are meant to mimic to pace and intensity of a real political campaign. A typical day begins with breakfast and homework review in the early morning hours and stretches into the evening with dinner presentations.
“It was a really intense week,” Browne said. “When it started, I attended all day and went to bed, and did the same thing again the next day. It was full days and evenings.”
One session that stood out for Browne was how to write and deliver a campaign speech. Currently serving as a volunteer on Chris Jones’ campaign for governor of Arkansas, Browne wrote her speech, which was assigned as part of the program’s regular homework, as if she were introducing Jones as part of a fundraising event.
“We were able to get one-on-one feedback from the instructor, but also offer it to each other, and that was very helpful,” Browne said. “When another classmate and I spoke and we were giving each other feedback, she said that my energy when speaking one-on-one was the kind of energy she wanted to see from me during my speech.”
In another course, the cohort’s students were divided into six groups and assigned to different sides of a hypothetical gubernatorial campaign in Iowa: Kim Reynolds, the current Republican governor of Iowa, running against a woman who representing Iowa in Congress as the hypothetical Democrat. Browne’s group was assigned to Reynolds’ campaign.
“We had to build a media plan, a budget, we had to do data and polling and research and put together a complete campaign plan, and we would present a written version and we would present it to the entire class,” Browne explained. “Our group was the Republican winner. It took in everything from crisis communication, to budget, to field work, to developing your message, research, legal, paid media – it just incorporated everything. Because it had to.”
Browne learned about Yale’s Campaign School from Clinton School graduate Starre Haas (’19), who attended the program in 2018. Haas connected Browne with Patricia Russo, Executive Director of The Campaign School.
Browne said she would like to work with an organization that seeks to increase the number of women in elected office. She attended The Campaign School knowing that she would need to have a thorough understanding of the campaign process.
In addition to her Master of Public Service from the Clinton School, Browne earned her Juris Doctor from the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas.
“Although the skills I acquired from the Campaign School at Yale are quite distinct from those I acquired in both law school and the Clinton School of Public Service, I believe that all three sets of skills complement each other,” Browne said. “The Campaign School at Yale gave me a crash course in all of the aspects of running a campaign, and a very specific set of skills. Both law school and the CSPS gave me a broader set of skills that are widely applicable in many ways.”
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.