A&S Students Explore Washington, DC Career Opportunities During Spring Break

A&S students took on Capitol Hill to learn about possible career paths, network with professionals, and watch government in action.

From the June 2022 Desktop News | Over spring break, 12 students from the College of Arts and Sciences took on the nation’s capital and explored opportunities for future careers during the Washington, DC Professional Preparation Program, hosted by the A&S ICUE Connector.  

Pam Derrick, director of experiential learning for the College, guided these students through the city, introducing them to agencies like Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration, non-profits like the Kennedy Center, and even members of Congress and their staff. While they made their way through the city, Derrick said that she wanted to show them that any career they wanted was available in the DC area. 

“The purpose of this trip isn’t to get internships—it’s to expose students to all the things that are available to them,” said Derrick. “They got to see the nation’s capital, government agencies, non-profits, local businesses, and more. The goal was for them to see that they don’t just need politicians in DC, but writers, historians, geologists, and a wide variety of other liberal arts professionals.” 

In addition to meeting with a number of large agencies, students could personalize their visits by making individual appointments with people that aligned with their personal interests and career goals. Marcella Martinez, a senior majoring in political science and economics, made several appointments, some of which helped her secure an internship with Congresswoman Terri Sewell. 

“I really learned how to network during this trip,” said Martinez. “When you have the opportunity to talk to someone involved in something you’re interested in, you should take it. You need to be aware of how you present yourself. And you never really know when opportunity will strike. It was an eye-opening experience for me, for sure.” 

Students traveled across the Potomac into Virginia to meet with agents and other representatives from the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Following an informative presentation about the DEA and career paths to consider, the group toured the DEA museum where they got to view artifacts and learn about public policy, law enforcement and drug misuse prevent.

While they met with professionals all over the DC area, A&S students also met with alumni who had made their careers in Washington, DC at an alumni-student event hosted by the College. For Derrick, the impact that A&S alumni made on the students in attendance was immeasurable.  

“The alumni reception was one of the highest-ranked experiences on the students’ post-trip reflections,” Derrick said. “Our alumni showed up in numbers beyond our expectations and really engaged with the students. It was reassuring to the students to learn how these professionals used similar college experiences to get to where they are now. They got to make even more connections—I had more appointments and contact information written on the back of napkins than I could believe. It was a great experience for them.” 

Throughout the trip, several students secured meetings with offices they’ll intern with this summer. John Dodd, a spring 2022 graduate majoring in political science, set up individual meetings with different congressional offices, and ended up receiving an internship with the Democratic Caucus office, where he’ll work with leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Hakeem Jeffries, Jim Clyburn, and Steny Hoyer. But for him, seeing the opportunities to people of all academic backgrounds was surprising.  

“I would advise any student, regardless of if you’re studying political science or English or biology, to go on this trip because there’s a place for you,” said Dodd. “We got to meet people that work in every sector in DC, from criminal justice to nonprofits to journalists and more. DC is a place of opportunity, not just politics.” 

For more information about future A&S trips to Washington, DC, email Pam Derrick.