Matter of National Security


Kaylee Cusack

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration


UND public administration grad student Jonathon Nord spends summer keeping the peace in the heart of one of America's biggest political machines.

When Jonathon Nord’s older sister presented him with a chance to intern with the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, he was a bit indifferent to the idea.

Despite having a chance to land a “dream internship,” Nord nearly didn’t realize the opportunity he had in time.

“Then I took a second look at it, and a closer look showed that it was going to be a lot of fun,” Nord said.

It would turn out to be the summer internship of a lifetime, working in the heart of the action of one of America’s biggest political machines. And it was an opportunity that Nord was well prepared for, thanks to his experiences at UND.

Nord is a graduate student in UND’s combined Masters of Public Administration program. His goal is to one day go into administrative law enforcement, combining his interests in public service and public policy. His RNC internship placed him in the Committee of Arrangements, which, Nord explained, served as a professional party planners for the big event. But he wasn’t in charge of catering, music or streamers.

“I was in the Security Department, which was a great fit for me,” Nord said. “It worked out really well as a part of my career path.”

Ready for anything

Nord was among more than two dozen interns within the Committee on Arrangements but was one of only two picked to be in the Security Department. He worked alongside two former Secret Service agents to ensure that the convention ran smoothly behind the scenes.

“It was a lot of staff responsibilities,” Nord said. “But as we progressed, there were always more and more projects and tasks that needed to get done that were a little bit bigger.”

Nord coordinated travel arrangements for third-party law enforcement contractors who were brought in as an additional level of security.

“I had pretty much taken on the responsibility of getting them all lined up with their flight plans, driving plans, parking arrangements, travel reimbursement forms, all sorts of travel-related things,” Nord explained. “I got a good chance to know most of them, too.”

Nord also catalogued contact information for 2,000 to 3,000 delegates and volunteers to be used in a mass messaging system. No emergency situations ultimately transpired, but Nord said the fact they even had that capability spoke to upgrades in technology since the last RNC four years ago.

“There are new chances to get information out and communicate with people, especially on a security level, which was important in case something was happening and we needed to evacuate a building,” Nord said.

Lesson in people

Nord’s summer in Cleveland wasn’t all work. He was able to take in some of the convention as a bystander, including much of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s acceptance speech. Nord was on the convention floor following the big speech as balloons and confetti rained down on him.

“When you’re there and you’re in the moment, it’s the coolest thing,” Nord recalled. “It was actually pretty tough to get out because you were waist-deep in balloons.”

After weeks of work and preparations, Nord said the wonder of the event would fade occasionally.

“People are standing around, and gosh, they’re taking photos of something you’ve walked past every single day for a couple months, and they’re saying, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,’” Nord said.

But a quick glance at the famous dignitaries and celebrities who routinely walked into the Cleveland events center always brought a wide-eyed realization back to Nord.

The internship not only provided a chance to dig into politics and policy, it also was a lesson in people from all over the country.

“We all had different experiences and backgrounds, and we were all tossed in together and we got to experience it all together, which was really fun,” Nord said.

Now that he is back at UND, he’s had a chance to share stories of his internship with classmates. He says the experience shaped his views and understandings of the overall process of politics.

“A lot of my courses right now, being a public administration major, are focused on how administrations and organizations run,” Nord said. “Well, I got to watch a pretty intense organization grow and develop and execute over this past summer.”