A View From Capitol Hill

Photo credit: David Feinman

University of Central Florida Political Science alumnus David Feinman shows that taking a chance can really pay off.

Feinman graduated from UCF in 2011 but his experience was far from the norm. Most students work while in school but not many have had the opportunity to work out of state while getting their degree. Feinman was an exception and earned his master’s degree while working on Capitol Hill. His journey all started on a whim and an internship.

After finishing most of his credit hours in his first year, Feinman was offered an internship on Capitol Hill over the summer. After a month, the office he was interning for asked him to stay as an intern indefinitely and offered to assist him in finding full-time employment on Capitol Hill.

“I was still committed to finishing my master’s at UCF as my career began,” he said. “It took some time and negotiating, but I eventually found support from professors in the program who allowed me to finish my final two courses from a distance.”

In time, Feinman’s internship led to a fulltime job with former Rep. Shelley Berkley. He worked hard for four rewarding months until he was hired by former Rep. Robert Wexler to begin his first policy job. He landed in the field of his dreams, but he knew he could go farther once he completed his degree.

“I came back to Orlando to complete my comprehensive exams,” he said. “Over a two-year period I wrote and defended my thesis, which I was able to research while actually living through and working in the topic.”

The entire experience was the most rewarding and unique experience Feinman had at UCF.

“I am grateful to my thesis committee for their patience, support and willingness to help me see it through,” Feinman expressed. “Finishing my thesis and getting that diploma after all of the effort to complete the program from a distance while working full time in my career was incredibly rewarding.”

His successful journey did not end there. His career beyond his time on Capitol Hill has led him to advocate on behalf of non-profit organizations on a range of public policy issues. From 2014 until earlier this year, David was handling government affairs for two separate non-profit organizations, both of which support Holocaust victims in different ways. One negotiates annually with the German government for pension programs and funding for home healthcare for the victims, and the other negotiates with Central and Eastern European governments for the return of immovable and movable property taken from Holocaust victims by the Nazi regime.

When it comes to memorable moments on the job, Feinman has a compelling story to share.

“It was on my last trip to Latvia after we held our government meetings, we visited the site of the Rumbula Massacre, a clearing in a forest where 25,000 Jews were killed and buried in mass graves,” Feinman said. “I have visited Buchenwald concentration camp in the past, but there was a feeling I got standing in this forest clearing, where there is a poignant memorial surrounded by mounds where people are buried, that not only affected me at my core, but reaffirmed for me the importance of my work. I will never forget that moment or the feeling I had there.”

Currently, Feinman works with the Conservation Lands Foundation as the Director of Government Affairs. In this role he focuses on maintaining and growing both congressional and grass-roots support for National Conservation Lands and the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to designate federal lands as monuments to protect areas of cultural, scientific or historic value. He made this career change because he had a strong desire to effect change on what he believes are key issues for America’s future.

“I wanted to focus on the preservation of America’s public lands,” Feinman explained. “This issue is a big part of a broader public policy challenge America faces in the coming years as it relates to climate change and environmental protection. I decided now was the time in my career to transition from foreign policy to contribute to the advancement of an important domestic policy issue.”

All of his experiences have left him with wonderful memories and plenty of good advice to give UCF students and alumni alike. Most importantly, he wants people to take opportunities that are placed in front of them.

“If you want to have an impact in the political or policy spheres, in D.C. or elsewhere, intern or work on Capitol Hill,” Feinman explained. “Not only will you learn first-hand how the legislative process works and experience the inner workings of government, but you will develop an essential skill set that will open many more doors for you in your public policy career.”

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