Vote Smart Names Jamieson Bates ‘08 Director

Vote Smart’s mission is to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to ALL Americans, and they have recently named Rutgers Prep graduate Jamieson Bates ‘08 their director. We spent a few minutes with Jamieson recently talking about his work and his journey since graduating from Rutgers Prep.

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Q: Jamieson, thanks so much for taking some time out of your day to talk with us; it must be a very busy time for you there! Can you tell us a little bit about your life after Rutgers Prep?

A: I graduated from Clemson, where I tried to cast a really wide net and not limit myself. When I visited the school I really liked it, and I decided to make happiness my priority.

Q: Do they let you major in happiness now?

A: (Laughing) Well, I majored in financial management; most of my peers ended up working for Bank of America, or doing some kind of financial analyst work or other work in the financial services industry. I was and am still interested in that, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to commit my life to.

The summer after I graduated, I cycled across the country with Bike and Build, which I’d found out through a Rutgers Prep classmate, and when I came back home I looked for a job but then decided that I really needed to do some internships, to help get a better sense of where I wanted to head next.

Q: How did that play out?

A: I got a three-month internship in Ireland working for the World Trade Center, and then came to Montana to work as a research intern at Vote Smart, helping to develop profiles on politicians. I started out in the development department, and then I became the research director, and then when our national director decided to leave they asked me to try out the position on an interim basis.

Q: What a wonderful vote of confidence! (No pun intended.) Can you talk a little bit about your current position at Vote Smart and what hopes and dreams you have for the organization going forward?

My focus now is on getting us through the election and trying to improve as we go forward. As states release their candidate lists, the demands for research really start ramping up. It’s challenging and very cool… I definitely feel like I’ve jumped into the deep end.

Our hope is that we’ll have more users and more engaged users. Vote Smart started in 1992, mostly as a hotline; since then, almost everything has migrated to the internet. A key priority for the organization will be improving our “online” offerings, and I will also be focusing on how to accomplish that with our IT department. Additionally, a new initiative has cropped up to promote our data to the “big whigs” (the NY Times or the Economists of the world), and ultimately sell it to them and have them disseminate our data to their users.

This work feels like important work, and it connects with my desire to make a difference in the world.

Q: How might we have been able to predict this story? Are there aspects of your Rutgers Prep experience, either curricular or otherwise, helped prepare you for college and the work you’re doing now?

A: For me, it mostly has to do with the change in environment between where I would have gone to school and the feeling of Rutgers Prep. Studying at Rutgers Prep helped build my confidence, and gave me some space to become who I was becoming.

Dr. Loy’s senior writing class was a big jumping off point for me in terms of writing and also in terms of style, critical thinking, and thinking about how we can all communicate better.

Q: If you could go back in time and offer some words of encouragement or advice to your younger self or to current members of the Rutgers Prep community, what might you say?

A: Be yourself and go for it! This can be hard to take to heart, but the older I get, the more I think that trusting yourself and not worrying too much about the consequences is really key.

(To learn more about Vote Smart’s work, check out this introductory video.)