Annual DC trip informs and inspires student career searches

March 14, 2016

Ford School alums are working across the globe, on the east coast and the west, as well as in that big portion of land in the middle. They are working in government agencies, consulting firms, non-profits and advocacy organizations on every issue and topic under the sun. Yet, at some point, many Fordies find their way to the bright lights of the District of Columbia. Therefore, each year the Ford School hosts an annual student pilgrimage to the District to explore policy career paths and opportunities. 

This year’s trip, on February 4 and 5, attracted roughly 45 graduate students and nearly 125 Ford School alumni to participate in career panels and networking events. “A huge part of attending the Ford School is learning from and engaging with the network of Fordies,” says Allison Zimmermann (MPP/MBA ’18). “The DC trip was a great opportunity to hear about the work that our alumni are doing.”

On the first day, students selected from six panels on the topics of research and evaluation, federal innovation, international development, urban policy, domestic social policy, and campaign strategy.  Many of the panels prominently featured Ford School alums and were hosted at a variety of locations, including the Urban Institute, Devex International Development, NeighborWorks America and the Center for the Study of Social Policy.

Asked to pick her favorite panel, Zimmermann expressed her surprise and captivation with the Innovation in Federal Government panel. “I wasn't even aware that some of these jobs existed in the federal government - it opened my eyes to career paths that I had never considered before,“ she said.

The panels were followed in the evening by a networking event featuring a special lecture from Barry Rabe, the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy, entitled “The American Climate Odyssey.” Rabe, who is on a year-long sabbatical, recently completed a stint as a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and began a six-month post as a visiting scholar at American University.

“At the networking event, I was able to talk one-on-one with alumni about their experiences working across the education policy spectrum [at organizations] such as the Department of Education, Mathematica Policy Research, and the Association of Community College Trustees,” said Joshua Rivera (MPP ’17).

On the second day, students could choose from morning panels on energy (hosted by the Edison Foundation) and consulting (hosted by Arabella Advisors).  Following that, students choose between ‘lunch and learn’ sessions on education, budgeting, international development as well as a tour of the State Department’s Operation Center. “The ‘lunch and learns’ allowed us to have honest and open discussions with alumni about working in DC and finding the opportunities that fit,” said John Guerriero (MPP ’17). The afternoon was left free for students to meet with potential employers. 

The trip has become tradition for the Ford School. “We have been hosting the DC trip for at least 20 years,” says Jennifer Niggemeier, director of the Ford School’s Graduate Career Services and Alumni Relations Department. “Washington is the world’s hub of policy work and we are fortunate to have an active alumni network that wants to help current students navigate the intricacies of the DC job search.”

For some students nearing graduation, their second experience on the trip provided reassurance as well as clarity to their job search. “It was exciting and surreal to see former classmates now thriving in their new jobs—it gave me hope for the future,” said Rasheed Malik (MPP ’16). As for his employment opportunities, Malik “found the research and evaluation panel particularly rewarding. As a result of alumni I met there, I have started targeting my job search to institutions with an emphasis on research.”

Photos from the trip can be seen here.

--Story by Alex Berger (MPP '17)