Zachary Freiman '20 is ready for the wild world of politics.
The Westchester, New York, native is a legislative aide for Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio), and his time at Pomona gave him a solid foundation for the job. Freiman has practice juggling multiple things at once—he was a music and public policy analysis (PPA) double major—and knows how to navigate the social scene, having been a member of the Pomona College Glee Club, finance chair for the Hillary for America Claremont Colleges Chapter, religious chair and Israel chair for Claremont Colleges Hillel, and manager of the Pomona College Choir.
"I think Pomona students are very well positioned to take on fast-paced work that requires you to learn quickly and perhaps do things you've never done before and tackle new challenges in a way to get the job done as efficiently and successfully as possible," Freiman says. "We develop everything from writing skills to speaking skills at Pomona, and I also developed performing skills."
Freiman first dipped his toes into political waters the summer of his first year at Pomona, when he interned at NARAL Pro-Choice America and the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). He later had internships with the 2018 Stacey Abrams for Georgia governor campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and was excited to graduate in an election year. When the COVID-19 pandemic upended everyone's plans, Freiman went home to New York to contemplate his next steps.
2020 "was a journey for all of us," Freiman says, and he was "very lucky" to get a job with the Biden/Harris campaign in North Carolina. "It was nothing like anyone had envisioned," he adds. "It was almost an entirely remote campaign. It was 'figure it out as you go,' and a real test of flexibility and resiliency and discovery about who I was and who we all were."
Freiman found his footing, and after President Biden's victory worked in the office of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) before joining Brown's staff. Brown won a special election in November 2021, and she has been "charting her own path and the path of the office," Freiman says. "I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to try something new and really see what it's like to build a congressional office from the ground up. That's not something a lot of people get to experience."
As part of his duties, Freiman drafts constituent responses, and since it's a new office, he's doing everything from scratch, without previous templates. "We get a lot of people writing in about a whole host of issues, and we make sure they are heard and their queries and concerns are passed to the congresswoman and they get a response if they want one," Freiman says.
He also works on drafting bills, including one to recognize a Holocaust memorial in Brown's district as a national memorial, which passed the House unanimously, and recently went on his first international trip with a delegation of other congressional staff members. Freiman traveled to Israel, where he learned more about Israeli medical research. Brown's district includes many medical institutions, including the Cleveland Clinic, and Freiman said he goes into "each and every opportunity thinking about how it's relevant to our district and what I can bring back to the district."
Brown was re-elected this November, and when the next Congress starts in January, the congresswoman will "have work under her belt already for the community and she'll be able to present the priorities of our district in a way that's even more clear and more forceful going forward," Freiman says.
Freiman is now settled in D.C., and recently joined the Washington Chorus, performing with the ensemble at Kennedy Center. He might be 2,600 miles away from Pomona, but he's still in touch with several of his advisers and mentors, including Politics Professors Mietek Boduszynski and David Menefee-Libey; as well as Music Professors Donna Di Grazia and Melissa Givens.
"Pomona is a small school and that really factors into the relationships you can develop with your professors, which perhaps aren't attainable at other academic institutions," Freiman says. "It also speaks to the students. We are the types who seek out relationships with experts and mentors and are looking to develop and hone our skills in particular areas, or we're looking to learn about different pathways in life."