Vivienne Ayala, UCDC Spring 2019

Vivienne Ayala — Economics & Demography, End Citizens United.

I am a 4th Year majoring in Economics, minoring in Demography. I worked at End Citizens United — a political action committee funded by grassroots donors fighting for campaign finance reform and getting corporate money out of politics. 

The biggest difference was working almost full time. Your day to day schedule has a lot less variation when you work around 30 hours a week, and there aren’t all the extracurricular clubs when you’re in DC that most students at Berkeley are used to. It reminded me a lot of being a freshman at Cal actually, with new roommates and navigating new surroundings. The classes were also very different. I come from a big department at Berkeley (Economics lectures often have 200+ students in classes), so to be in classes of only 15 or 20 students was a big change, but it allowed for different class structures than I was used to where there was much more discussion and debate which I enjoyed.

 In DC, I learned how politics is actually executed — who the people running our government are, how the landscape is organized, and how change is made. Perhaps most importantly, I learned elected officials and D.C. professionals are all normal people — they are not magically superior to the everyday person, but are simply unified by a supreme dedication to politics and the system.

 I am so thankful for UCDC because it allowed me to experiment with a potential career pathway. I was always passionate about politics, and used my semester in DC to see if this was something I wanted to pursue after graduation. From this experience I learned a career in politics was not something I was ready for right out of undergrad, but something I might come back to later. The skills and experiences I have gained through UCDC have helped me demonstrate my passion and ability to adapt to new environments.

Favorite moment: Seeing snow for the first time was incredible. I loved sitting in a cafe on Dupont Circle and watching the snow from the second story.

 I also got to see H.R.1 (the first bill the new Democratic House submitted onto the agenda after the 2018 elections) passed in the House with my colleagues from work — a major part of the bill included campaign finance reform elements and End Citizens United had coordinated with top members of the House to rally support for the bill. After the bill passed our organization hosted an event at the office where bill sponsor Rep. John Sarbanes spoke about the importance of this accomplishment.

Why should future students apply for UCDC?

Future students should apply for UCDC if they are at all considering life in politics. If you are dead set on being the next California Senator, you can start building your network and experience while still in college. If you are curious about a life in politics like I was, UCDC is also for you! It is an amazing way to try new things you’ve never done before without having to commit to a full time job after college.

I also think UCDC is an amazing experience for people who are really passionate about policy and political issues, regardless of whether you want to get a career in politics or not. I was always one of the most politically active people in my friend group, particularly because the issues in politics today are very personal to my background and family. It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by people who cared more about politics than I did (D.C. folks live, eat, breathe politics), and allowed me to become even more engaged.