By: Tara M. Bardella, Kallion Community Member and Digital Strategist

When I think about my career journey thus far, I often find myself reflecting on the humanities and the important role this field of study has played within it – because the two are so closely interwoven.

My own application of the humanities to the professional world started during my time at the University of Arizona’s College of the Humanities, where I earned my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing.

After my graduation from U of A, I began my pursuit of a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, with a concentration in Non-Profit Studies. It was during this time that I joined Former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign (in Washington, DC — in the literal basement of the DNC) – and the intersection between the humanities and my professional life came into fuller fruition.

Tara at her graduation ceremony at the Washington Hilton, from her Masters of Public Administration program, in March of 2015

A core component of the study and application of the humanities is the study and practice of democratic leadership. The theory of democratic leadership, in the context of the study of the humanities, can generally be defined as a style of leadership in which members of a group participate in the decision-making process and in which all involved are given the opportunity to participate, ideas are exchanged freely, and discussion is encouraged. (Source)

My time on that team came at the very beginning of my career and personal journey in politics and public service. But while my role was that of a relative novice, it was a truly transformational experience because it solidified the connection between democratic leadership and my career journey. It not only helped me to develop key organizing and communications skills that would go on to inform my subsequent professional efforts in the fields of campaign and issue-based organizing, digital strategy, and communications — it inspired and further activated my own personal desire to grow as both a participant and agent of democratic leadership.

Our motto on the campaign was “Respect. Empower. Include. Win”. These tenets and principles were essential goals and elements of each aspect of our work, whether that was cold calling Virginia voters, helping to recruit and expand neighborhood teams, or sharing our personal story narratives to further underscore the importance of our organizational mission.

Tara (and her teammates…and the candidate!) during her time on Fmr. President Obama’s campaign in 2012

I have taken this motto with me — or I have strived to — on each step of my journey to follow. “Respect” is of course a crucial component of any interpersonal exchange or connection and is, in my estimation, a must have for any team. To that end, “Empower” enables team members to perform at their very best and to come closer to their own, fuller leadership potential. But in order for either of these goals to be achieved, I feel that it is imperative that there be full “Inclusion” — including the formation of teams that, in this context, more fully represent the rich diversity of our nation and therefore build a bridge to the equity that we should, in my opinion, all be actively working to promote as agents of democratic leadership — and is also a big part of that “Win”.

I currently work in digital strategy on the agency level. In this role, I am very frequently tasked with the goal of amplifying political or other issue-based narratives. When I contemplate how best to incorporate a client’s story and message into the content I am helping to create, I often find myself reflecting on the principles which were first introduced to me in my academic study of the humanities, and were then embodied in the community organizing work that launched my professional career.

As a writer by trade and by heart, I feel I can use the medium of the written personal narrative to both utilize and demonstrate humanities-based attributes such as inclusive story-telling – which can be more broadly defined as effectively delivering stories and narratives that represent the often underrepresented and underserved communities represented in the target audience (Source) – to persuade and energize voters.

This integration of the humanities and humanities-related principles has been and continues to be a consistent part of my career journey. The study and application of the humanities and its core elements – especially those of democratic leadership and the sharing of personal narratives – continues to guide and inspire my personal, professional, and civic life.

About the Author: Tara M. Bardella graduated from the University of Arizona in 2009 with a B.A. in Creative Writing. She earned a Masters of Public Administration degree, with a concentration in Non-Profit Studies, from Capella University in 2015. Tara has done digital communications work for campaigns and projects including the DLCC, Democratic GAIN, House Majority PAC and the 2012 Obama-Biden campaign. In 2022, Tara joined the Dover Strategy Group as the firm’s Digital Campaign Manager. A Kallion Community Member, Tara serves on our Communications Committee.

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