The Pitt News

D.C. insider shares advice with students

Nick+Tabor+video-chatted+with+students+to+offer+insights+into+the+field+of+public+service+and+policymaking.+Julia+Zhu+%7C+Staff+Photographer
Nick Tabor video-chatted with students to offer insights into the field of public service and policymaking. Julia Zhu | Staff Photographer

Nick Tabor video-chatted with students to offer insights into the field of public service and policymaking. Julia Zhu | Staff Photographer

Nick Tabor video-chatted with students to offer insights into the field of public service and policymaking. Julia Zhu | Staff Photographer

By Zoe Pawliczek / Staff Writer

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As is often the case with college graduates’ introductions to politics, Nick Tabor’s was more of a crash course — short, full of variety and unexpected.

At this semester’s Panthers in Politics seminar, the former senior policy advisor for the National Economic Council shared advice for current students looking to dive into the field.

“If public service interests you at all in any form — wherever you land — whether it’s this summer or in a few years, just look around you for the things you think need changing,” Tabor told the crowd of 26 students in Nordy’s Place.

Skyping in from Philadelphia, Tabor offered insights into public service and policy making based on his time in Washington, D.C., where he began as a campaign volunteer and ended with an office in the White House. The Community and Governmental Relations Committee of Student Government Board and the Bully PulPitt, UPTV’s political news show, hosted the event, which took place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Tabor mainly urged students to seek opportunities where they are able to express and expand their political interests, regardless of prior experience.

“It’s helpful to have had your mind in that world and have some knowledge on how it works, but not having that background shouldn’t stop you from pursuing it,” Tabor said.

This is the first year the SGB has advertised Panthers in Politics publicly — the previous event was last November, during which local representatives visited and spoke only to students in SGB after the election.

Senior politics and philosophy major Andrew Dolan — the executive vice chair for the CGRC and a previous intern of Tabor’s — said he was proud to see students engaging in public policy discussions and interested in future political careers.

“The last [Panthers in Politics] was about the state and local level of politics, so this time around, we wanted to bring someone in from the federal level,” Dolan said. “Even though they do a lot of the same work in their respective fields, it’s good to get different perspectives.”

A Harvard Law School fellow, Tabor moved back to his home city of Washington, D.C., after graduating with an interest in financial institutions and the political workings of Capitol Hill.

Tabor started by describing his evolution from answering phones to taking an entry-level job at a consulting firm to landing his position in the White House last March. More recently, he has been volunteering for political campaigns, including the Clinton campaign.

He then encouraged students to get involved in politics in any way they can.

“You really don’t have to be an expert to make a difference, and you shouldn’t let it stop you,” Tabor said. “Whatever role you’re playing, your presence is the most important thing.”

Attendees related to Tabor’s varying experiences in politics, including Annabelle Hanflig, who said she came to the event because it’s important to make politics accessible to students. Hanflig produces videos for The Pitt News and created the Bully Pulpitt.

“I wasn’t raised to be very patriotic or politically involved, but I think public service and those who work in it are very admirable,” the sophomore and media and professional communications major said.

To get involved in public service, Tabor suggested taking internships and building up an arsenal of skills essential to any field, such as writing well and being able to adapt to the needs of the workplace.

The political world is fast-paced, wrought with challenges that extend the average campaigner’s hours far beyond the 40-hour workweek. The number of available positions in political organizations increases significantly during the campaign season, according to the Pew Research Center — but so do the responsibilities of anyone working in the field.

Although his experience is specific to Washington, D.C., Tabor answered audience questions about how to get — and stay — involved in any political community without running out of energy.

“Folks that come to D.C. often work their tails off for five, eight, 10 years, and then they leave their policies to go find something more sustainable,” Tabor said. “Constantly finding new things that interest you: That’s the number one way to sustain your interest in politics.”

When Hanflig asked how to start in politics without fearing failure, Tabor said to consider three points: any contribution is important no matter the size, there is always someone in the government you can ask for help and you can’t mess up anything too badly.

Tabor also shared advice from his White House colleagues, who said that they consider an honest and confident approach to be the key to making a difference in public policy.

“In any political job, you have a real opportunity to engage with values and beliefs that transcend what is in front of you,” Tabor said.

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D.C. insider shares advice with students