Exploring DC policy careers with a little help from Ford School friends

February 27, 2015

Some Ford School alums choose to work on the east coast or the west. Some work abroad. Some work in city government, county government, or state. But many have an interest in spending some portion of their careers in Washington, DC. For these students, the Ford School hosts an annual pilgrimage to the capital to explore policy career paths. Students don’t go it alone. They’re accompanied by several staff members who oversee the panels and activities, and they’re met in DC by dozens of Ford School alumni. This year’s trip, hosted from Thursday, February 5 through Friday, February 6, attracted 40 students and more than 100 alumni.

On the first day, students could choose from six panels on careers in research and evaluation (at the Brookings Institution), lobbying and governmental affairs (at K&L Gates), domestic social policy (at The Urban Institute), international development (at CARE), federal jobs and internships (at the Washington Campus), and energy and environmental policy (at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

In the evening, students attended a networking reception with alumni (see photos here). At the reception, alumni hosted tables on domestic social policy, education policy, energy and environmental policy, federal budgeting, foreign policy, health policy, international development, and private sector careers.  “It was great to see students making connections on their own,” says Elisabeth Johnston, manager of alumni relations and one of the trip organizers. “And since we’d hosted a practice networking event before the trip, students seemed particularly well prepared to make those connections.”

On the second day, the morning was scripted, and the afternoon free. In the morning, students chose from panels on career and internship opportunities in the Executive Office of the President (at the Washington Campus) and consulting agencies (at Arabella Advisors). Grace Evans (MPP ‘16) particularly enjoyed the panel featuring Ford School alumni working in the Executive Office of the President. “They shared stories about their varied career paths,” says Evans, “which encouraged me to believe that progress comes to those who are bright, well prepared, and aren’t afraid to say ‘yes.’”

Following Friday’s panels were small 'lunch and learn' sessions on education policy (at the Corner Bakery on North Capitol Street) and international policy (at Roti on Pennsylvania Avenue). Corey Ackerman (MPP ’16), who attended the international policy lunch, says the conversation ranged from the application process for World Bank jobs to the most useful classes at the Ford School. “All of the alumni I met on the trip were excited to share career advice and tips for thinking about life after Ford,” says Ackerman. International policy lunch hosts included Veronica Gonzales-Stuva (MPP ‘13), a consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank, Andrew Bracken (MPP ‘13), an agriculture program specialist at Fintrac, Inc., and Parvati Patil (MPP ‘11), Gateway Academy consultant at the World Bank.

On Friday afternoon, many students used the open block of time to conduct informational interviews they arranged from Ann Arbor. Grace Evans, for example, took a group of six students to the innovations lab at the Office of Personnel Management. Amy Wallace (MPP ‘16) connected with the U.S. Treasury Department. First-year student Meredith Reid (MPP ‘16) says the DC trip “broadened my scope of possibility.” Reid came away with new ideas for how to target her internship search, and “a better understanding of the countless opportunities that can be considered a ‘policy job.’”

For alumni, the highlights were sharing career advice and connecting with fellow alums. Of the 100 alums who participated in this year’s trip, some served as panelists, others as ‘lunch and learn’ hosts or table hosts at the networking reception. Lynn Vendinello (MPP ’89), who hosted the energy and environmental policy table at the networking reception, says she spoke to several interesting students and recent alumni. “One is working on climate change issues at NOAA and another is establishing a sustainable energy film company in New York City,” says Vendinello. “It’s a testament to the range of interests and opportunities that Ford School students and alumni have.”