Metcalf Memoirs: Benjamin Field

Viewing retail politics in action at the Chicago Mayor's Office.
Metcalf Collage
Photo by: 
Gordon Lew, College Visual Media Editor, Class of 2015
I have always believed government can be a force for good, and the commitment and competence of the Mayor's Staff only reinforced that notion...

As the summer internship season kicks off, the College media team has gathered reflections from a few students in each UChicago Careers In... (UCI) program who held Jeff Metcalf internships this past summer. Here is what they had to say about their experiences.


Benjamin Field, Class of 2014
Major: Public Policy Studies
Primary UCI program: Public and Social Service
Name of internship: Mayor's Office of Legislative Counsel & Government Affairs
Internship location: Chicago, IL

Q: What attracted you to the Metcalf internship that you have been doing this summer?

A: Last summer I worked as a Field Organizer on President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. That experience taught me what it is like to work for a political campaign, and showed me how politicians are elected. This summer I wanted to learn how politicians govern once elected—how they formulate, garner public support for, and enact new policies. The Chicago Mayor's Office has received nationwide recognition for its innovative crime reduction, sustainability, and fiscal policies. It was an excellent place to learn how government should function.

Q: How does your major or other coursework at UChicago relate to the kind of work that you are doing for your Metcalf?

A: The internship gave me the opportunity to create policy, interact with elected officials, and view retail politics in action. UChicago's Public Policy major, which teaches the mechanics of municipal and national policies, prepared me for the internship's policy component. My experiences working with UChicago's Institute of Politics, the College Democrats, and President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign prepared me to interact with elected officials, and helped me better appreciate the retail politics I witnessed.

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Field, Class of 2014

Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of your Metcalf, and how have you dealt with or overcome that challenge?

A: The manner in which I received work was relatively unstructured. There were weekly trips and speakers' series, but I never received a clear description of what I was to do on a day-to-day basis. Rather, I resorted to asking various city employees from Intergovernmental Affairs, Legislative Affairs, and other city departments for projects. When I finished one project, I was left to find myself another. Although I was initially unaccustomed to soliciting work in this manner, I ultimately came to prefer it because I was able to explore a wide variety of departments and assume a diverse array of assignments. I would like to note, however, that the Mayor's Office is usually quite slow in the summer months, and that the work would likely have been more structured had the internship been in the fall, winter, or spring.

Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned or the most rewarding experience you have had?

A: Working with the Chicago Mayor's Office did not profoundly change the way I think about government. I have always believed government can be a force for good, and the commitment and competence of the Mayor's staff only reinforced that notion. I was, however, surprised by the number of senior staffers who had successful private sector careers before transitioning to public service. Though the term "revolving door" is often used to berate public servants who have "sold out" to the private sector, I now realize that there is a constant flow of high-minded private sector workers looking to "make a difference" to the public sector. I have always wanted to work in public service, and observing this phenomenon has shown me that pursuing a private sector career with the idea of later entering public service is a viable career plan.

Q: Is there anything else that you think would be particularly interesting or instructive to share?

A: I would highly recommend the internship to anyone considering a career in nonprofits, government, or any private sector industry that interacts with government on a regular basis. I prepared legal and issue briefs for the Mayor's municipal and state legislative liaisons, researched the best practices of other cities and wrote policy proposals based on my findings, and assisted with outreach to city and county elected officials and city departments. My supervisors were friendly, helpful, and model public servants devoted to making Chicago a better place.

For more Metcalf reflections, check out the overview articleTo read the profiles that Career Advancement collects, click here.

UChicago Careers in Public and Social Service (UCIPSS), a program of Career Advancement, aims "to help students find purposeful and rewarding careers in the non-profit, policy, government, and related public service sectors." To that end, UCIPSS offers Jeff Metcalf internships, which are paid, substantive internships exclusively for UChicago undergraduates. For more information, visit the Metcalf Internship Program website.

Metcalf Internships are available to College students throughout the academic year, and especially during the summer internship season. To learn more about currently posted Metcalf Internships, log into your Chicago Career Connection account to search for opportunities, and to make an appointment with a Career Advancement adviser.

Tagged: policy, government, politics, Metcalf Internship, Metcalf Memoirs