2023 Gardner Fellows: Insights into Advocacy with the ACLU

February 15, 2024

As a Political Science major passionate about LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, I entered my Gardner Fellowship with two main goals: to explore how I can make the most meaningful impact on the issues I care about, and to build a strong relationship with a mentor who could help guide me through that journey. I am currently placed at the ACLU’s National Political Advocacy Department in Washington D.C., where I work on reproductive freedom campaigns and policy. Four months into my fellowship, I am happy to report that my placement has afforded me ample opportunities to realize both of these goals.

One example of the unique learning opportunities I’ve participated in took place on a cold, snowy day in early January, when I visited the Capitol with my mentor, Madison Roberts, to attend a briefing planned by Senate Democrats ahead of what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The briefing featured two OB-GYNs, one of whom is also a plaintiff in a Texas abortion rights case, as well as feminist writer Jessica Valenti. At the briefing, I listened to three hours of testimony from the featured guests about the state of abortion rights in the U.S., including the personal experiences of plaintiff Dr. Austin Dennard and Planned Parenthood D.C. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Serina Floyd, while also taking note of the comments and questions that each Senator made. 

However, what made the experience especially valuable for me was the conversation I had afterwards with my mentor. Once back at the ACLU offices, Madison took the time to teach me about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into preparing witnesses and Members of Congress for briefings like the one we attended. She showed me some of the documents and types of questions she often prepares for Members of Congress, and shared with me her main observations from the briefing, down to the body language of some of the Members.

While this is just one example of the exciting opportunities I’ve had as a Gardner Fellow so far, it perfectly encapsulates the ways in which my placement has helped me gain insight into what it might look like to work on policy at an advocacy group and the different ways Congress might engage with this work. I am incredibly grateful to be mentored by someone as generous and thoughtful as Madison, and to be afforded plenty of professional experiences like these as a Gardner Fellow.