Lasting Impact: An Andrew Goodman Alumni Q&A With Rachel Sondkar, University Of California-Berkeley
Rachel Sondkar was an Andrew Goodman Ambassador at the University of California-Berkeley, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy with a concentration on The American Legal System. After graduation, she joined The Andrew Goodman Foundation as a Communications Intern and ultimately as a Communications Associate. Rachel continued her marketing and communications experience at a tech startup. Now, she is preparing to start law school at UCI Law.
Tell us about your experience as an Andrew Goodman Ambassador. Was there a campaign you championed as an Ambassador that you are particularly proud of?
Though I was involved in on-campus civic engagement efforts through student government, I only became an Ambassador my senior year. When I first voted in 2016, I was overwhelmed with the amount of research I needed to conduct to make an educated choice and was confused by the process as a whole. I became passionate about voter education and wanted to help other young people who were in a similar position as I was. As an Ambassador, I created succinct voting resources that answered common questions and simplified voting laws. These online resources significantly expanded our outreach and demonstrated how effective and powerful digital advocacy can be—especially when combined with traditional on-the-ground methods. I’m excited to see more and more students embracing digital strategies in their organizing work.
What legacy did you leave on campus for future generations of Ambassadors to continue?
My legacy is the continued presence of the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program itself on campus. Since the program had been on hiatus for three years, I had to revive and re-establish the Vote Everywhere brand at UC-Berkeley. Similarly, because I became an Ambassador my senior year, I was even more driven to ensure that the program would continue even after I graduated. By laying the foundation and making the Vote Everywhere program known on campus, there was a smooth transition to the next set of Ambassadors. I’m happy and proud to see that current Ambassadors are continuing the work on campus.
As an Ambassador, how did you contribute to creating lasting change and a more democratic culture on your campus?
Though multiple organizations on campus were working on civic engagement, their efforts were incohesive and, at times, clashed with one another. We needed to consolidate our efforts and resources to make our efforts more impactful. I partnered with other student organizations and negotiated contracts with the campus administration culminating in the creation of the Civic Engagement Committee, which focused on ground-level efforts, and the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Group on Civic Engagement, which worked on campus-wide initiatives.
How did your time in the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program impact your development as a leader and community member?
My short time as an Ambassador made me more equipped to handle the “real world.” I sharpened my advocacy, negotiating, organizing, and problem-solving skills, and felt more confident overall in my leadership abilities. In the working world, at times, I had people doubt my abilities or ideas because of my age. Thanks to the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program, I am confident in my capabilities and have a network of peers who demonstrate just how adept and skillful young people are.
Tell us about what you’re doing today. How did your time as an Ambassador inform your continuing education, work, or volunteerism?
The National Civic Leadership Training Summit kickstarted my interest in digital advocacy and how technology can be leveraged in organizing work. Through my work as an Ambassador, I taught myself digital marketing, which led me to take an unexpected three-year-long gap year working in marketing and communications, first at The Andrew Goodman Foundation and later at a tech startup. Now I’m preparing to start law school at UCI Law, where I hope to explore this intersection further by ensuring that new and emerging technologies and innovations can advance equity without infringing on or threatening our other rights.
What advice would you give to our current Ambassadors?
Your youth and inexperience are not flaws. The work that you do to advance voting rights demonstrates just how capable, competent, and resourceful you are. Whether or not advocacy work becomes your 9 to 5, the skills you develop as an Ambassador are highly marketable and can serve in whatever field you choose.
Stay tuned as we continue our Lasting Impact series, featuring alumni of our Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program, what they’re doing today, and how they are still living the legacy.