CSSW connection: After earning an undergraduate degree in political science and international studies from the University of California, Irvine, Russellie Bongolan worked as an AmeriCorps intern in the field of addiction and mental health, after which she entered CSSW. She became active in student leadership, serving as chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus. Her MSW, earned in 2009, was in Social Enterprise Administration.
Path to political involvement: Post-graduate school, Bongolan worked for the Veterans Health Administration of Los Angeles and then in the fields of education and healthcare technology, while also finding time to volunteer for political campaigns including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run and Katie Porter’s successful bid in 2018 to become the first Democrat to represent California’s 45th congressional district. In addition to her passion for politics, Bongolan found that she has an aptitude for campaign management and political strategy. In the run-up to the 2020 general election, she seized the opportunity to become a full-time campaign employee, serving as deputy director of coalitions for the Biden-Harris ticket in the State of Georgia, after which she was tapped to serve as political director for Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock’s runoff campaign to become Georgia’s first Black senator. Her work was critical in securing a win for Warnock—who, incidentally, is an alumnus of Union Theological Seminary (MDiv’96, PhD’04), a Columbia affiliate.
From an ABS-CBN News interview:
“It took hard work, a positive attitude, but mostly a very sincere concern and love for the community.”
In an email to CSSW Communications, Bongolan said:
“It meant everything to me to be able to carry on with the work that so many had put in before me, to get the first Black Senator in the history of Georgia elected. Traveling across the state, knowing the importance of this race, during a pandemic required an incredible amount of sacrifice, fortitude, and creativity. But ultimately, it was all worth it to lead a team that authentically engaged with and energized voters who would frequently tell us how they finally felt seen.”