Much has been written about the innovative digital and social networking efforts of the 2012 Obama for President campaign and the presidency of Barack Obama.
A young woman from Riverside has been part of that effort.
Courtney Corbisiero, 22, took a year off from college last year to work full time on the Obama 2012 campaign, spending the last four months of the campaign as a paid staff member, managing the campaign’s digital tools in the key battleground state of Ohio.
After returning to George Washington University in January she spent this summer as a White House intern working in the Office of Digital Strategy.
“I worked specifically with the content team,” said Corbisiero. “I was responsible for drafting and copy editing blogs, posted on WhiteHouse.gov, and also on the First Lady’s initiative on obesity. I did write some tweets.”
Corbisiero spent her summer working in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House.
“It was just a really awesome experience,” Corbisiero said of her White House internship. “You’re surrounded by some of the most influential people, not only in the country, but in the world.”
She saw President Obama in person when the president spoke at a White House workshop for interns. But meeting the president was nothing new for Corbisiero. She had met him and shook hands with him a few times while working on his campaign.
In addition to working as a White House intern this summer she took four summer school classes so she could graduate in December with a major in political science and a minor in journalism and mass communication.
So how did a girl from Riverside make it to the White House?
It started the summer of 2008.
Her parents were strong Obama supporters in 2008 and decided to take Courtney and her two younger brothers to Springfield to attend the rally where then-Senator Obama, having secured the Democratic nomination for president, introduced Joe Biden as his pick for a running mate.
Corbisiero was then about to start her senior year of high school at St. Ignatius after attending Central School and L.J. Hauser Junior High School.
Up until then she hadn’t paid close attention to politics. She says that she didn’t closely follow the long battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic nomination, but supported Obama out of Illinois pride.
But being at that Springfield rally on a hot summer day lit a spark.
“That’s when I started paying attention more,” Corbisiero said. “That’s when I started becoming more and more aware and more interested. I went to a few rallies and then I was in Grant Park on Election Night.”
She didn’t volunteer in the Obama 2008 campaign, but knew people who did.
“I had a lot of friends who were taking buses to Indiana to go knock on doors,” Corbisiero said. “I was not one of them, unfortunately, but it was cool and I think that really opened my eyes and let me see that the political process wasn’t just for politicians or other people, but high schoolers can get involved.”
She graduated from St. Ignatius in 2009 and decided to attend George Washington in Washington, D.C., just blocks from the White House.
“It really didn’t have much to do with an interest in politics, but I think that once I got there I was kind of immersed in it and caught the bug,” Corbisiero said.
In early 2011 the then college sophomore was on Facebook.
“I saw a post by Barack Obama talking about being a summer organizer laying the groundwork for his campaign in 2012, and I thought that this was something interesting,” Corbisiero said.
She applied for and got a summer internship and spent the summer of 2011 working in the Chicago area, trying to recruit volunteers for the campaign. She focused on the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago and Oak Lawn but also worked in DuPage County.
She also applied for a spot with the digital team, was accepted and started learning about digital organizing.
“I loved offline organizing. I thought it was very important, but I thought that online organizing was more my thing,” Corbisiero said.
She advanced quickly. When she went back to college in the fall of 2011, she started running the campaign’s Illinois Facebook page and maintaining the Illinois page on the campaign website. She was working as an intern for the Democratic National Committee as well as going to school full time.
In January 2012 Corbisiero decided to take a semester off from college to volunteer full time for the Obama campaign. Living at home in Riverside, she worked with the support team to make sure the campaign’s website and digital tools worked well.
Like others in the Obama campaign, she saw email and social media as an ideal way to reach young people. In July 2012 she was hired as paid campaign staff member and assigned to Ohio, the biggest battleground state of them all. She moved to Columbus, got an apartment and went to work. She managed all the digital tools for Obama’s Ohio campaign, working more than 12 hours a day.
“I would get in the office to start work at around 9 a.m. and leave at 9 to10 p.m. and then I would get home and do more work,” Corbisiero said.
She was thrilled when Obama won Ohio and the election, and then she headed back to Riverside for some rest and relaxation before returning to school in January. Adjusting to school after the pressure of the campaign was a bit of a challenge, especially after seeing other staffers she had worked with get great jobs.
“I went from this very fast-paced environment where you know you had to get something done in a couple minutes to an environment where a paper was due in a few weeks,” Corbisiero said.
What does she want to do when she graduates?
“I’m very interested in politics, I’m very interested in digital so if there is a way for me to combine those two I would love that,” Corbisiero said. “I think I would really like doing consulting. A little outside the D.C. bubble, but not too far.”
She may work for Democrat Ed Fitzgerald, a Democrat running for governor in Ohio in 2014. Corbisiero wants to work on a 2016 presidential campaign and wants to work the Iowa caucuses.
“I would love it if Secretary Clinton would run,” Corbisiero said of 2016. “I would definitely go with her, but there are a lot of great candidates on the Democratic side.”
Might Corbisiero run for office one day?
“I don’t think it’s something I’m interested in,” Corbisiero said. “If the time comes and it feels right then maybe, but right now I’m not thinking about that.”