Marshall Burkhardt, who graduated from Stockton in 2016, is currently working as a legislative aide and legislative correspondent for Congressman Andy Kim. He discussed his position and how he took advantage of impactful opportunities at Stockton.
Burkhardt detailed his responsibilities as legislative aide and legislative correspondent.
“As an LA, I meet with advocacy groups and constituents to discuss ongoing or absent legislation related to my legislative portfolio (education, the environment, LGBTQ+ rights, national service to name a few). From there, I advise the Congressman and senior staff on whether or not to support existing legislation or how we can introduce legislation.
“As an LC, I am responsible for ensuring that we are responding to constituents 1) with the most accurate, up-to-date information and 2) in the fastest possible time. If constituents are writing to us about x, I’ll research the Congressman’s position and draft a response in his voice,” he said.
Burkhardt said there really is no average “day in the life” working for a member of Congress, due to their busy schedule and travel to and from D.C. When in D.C., Burkhardt said he often staffs him on relevant meetings and uses the time to talk through ideas with the Congressman. In New Jersey, he holds staff meetings and works “towards our office’s strategic plan.”
In his time at Stockton, Burkhardt participated in two events that were particularly influential: Model United Nations, and a two-week faculty-led Holocaust study tour in May 2014.
“I was lucky enough to participate in 5 conferences advocating on global issues from the viewpoint of an assigned country. It allowed me to learn hands-on that any given policy issue has an intersection with others and improve my critical thinking and negotiating,” said Burkhardt on his time in Model United Nations. He said that he is “forever indebted” to his friends from Model UN, and thanks Dr. Z for leading his team.
During his Holocaust study tour, Burkhardt said that the group visited four concentration camps, discussed the rise in antisemitism with local Jewish leaders, and “accompanied a local NJ Holocaust survivor to a Lithuanian murder pit where he and his mom survived.”
“Given the recent discoveries in Bucha, Ukraine, I often think back to the Holocaust study tour remembering the deafening silence walking in these sites. Having stood mere feet away from where millions of people were murdered is both humbling and incomprehensible. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but that trip reinforced my desire to live a life of service,” said Burkhardt.
For students who are preparing for a career in politics, Burkhardt offers this advice: “Work for an individual or organization that shares your values. Don’t waste time being part of something that your heart isn’t in. There are plenty of important issues you can help with.”
He also said to consider all of your options, since there are so many fields in politics, and don’t be afraid to try new things.
“Spend some time thinking about what interests you and feel free to explore these different paths. If you’re worried about the fear of transitioning to another part of politics or to another career entirely, think about the skills you’ve acquired and how they can help overcome any insecurities you may experience,” said Burkhardt.
Burkhardt spent time in the Peace Corps, which allowed him to connect with people from all walks of life and learn from their experiences. Because of this, and his other experiences throughout college and his career, he said one of the most important things students can do in college is make connections and learn from others.
“Use your time in college to speak with people of different backgrounds, whether they’re socio-economic, ethnic and religious, even political. I don’t have to tell anyone that this country is incredibly fractured, and I wholeheartedly believe thatit’s because we are unwilling to listen to opposing viewpoints,” said Burkhardt.
“Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Having these conversations may be difficult or unsettling but it’s a starting place. It allows the opportunity to begin breaking down stereotypes and putting a face to the story. Your generation (I sound like a boomer) is on track to be the most diverse in our country’s history and democracy only works when we harness and include that diversity.”
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