Annual DC Trip encourages professional networking and career exploration for students

February 20, 2018

Washington, DC is the heartland of sorts for much of American public policy, which is one reason why Ford School alumni flock to the area after graduation. For current students, that means an extensive alumni network to approach for career advice. 

To help introduce current graduate students to policy careers and alumni working in those fields, the Ford School’s Graduate Career Services Office hosts an annual DC Trip during the winter semester. On February 8th and 9th of this year, 43 students traveled to DC to attend panel discussions, one-on-one meetings, and an evening networking reception with alumni.

The optional trip is open to all Ford School graduate students. Prior to traveling to DC, students have the opportunity to share their resumes with alumni, practice their “elevator pitches,” and learn tips for navigating networking opportunities.

Abby Orrick (MPP ‘19) said the most useful thing she learned from her DC trip was how transferrable the skills she’s learning in class are in organizations she had never considered before.

“I went to DC not necessarily hoping to get an internship out of it, but it was interesting to see what kind of positions alumni end up in,” she said. “Because you get to hear about positions you may never have known existed.”

While in DC, students can choose up to four panel sessions to attend based on their policy interests. This year’s panels included discussions of nonprofit leadership, careers in social policy and education, navigating careers in the federal government, and policy within the private sector. U-M and Ford School alumni, as well as key Ford School employers, hosted the panels, sharing their experiences at the National Governors Association, the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. Department of Education and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, among many more.

Students also have the option to attend “Lunch and Learns,” to meet in smaller group settings with specific alumni during the trip.

Wesley Williams (MPP ’18) attended the DC Trip this year and last. The soon-to-be graduate said he enjoyed his “Lunch and Learn” on consulting at Booz Allen Hamilton most.   

“It was great to have a less formal conversation with folks doing the work I want to do in the future,” he said. “I appreciated hearing from Fordies who took less traditional policy roles.”

Some students set aside time for personal meetings to either reconnect or interview with organizations while in DC.

Jai Singletary (MPP ‘19) said he arranged one-on-one meetings with Ford School alumni, and that those meetings helped boost his confidence for the internship application process.

Thursday evening, 145 students, alumni, and members of the Ford School administration attended a networking reception with began with a Q&A between Alumni Board Chair Keith Fudge (MPP ‘09) and Ford School Dean Michael Barr.

The audience asked questions pertaining to Barr’s priorities for the Ford School, then mingled over hors d’oevres at tables designated by policy interest.

--Olivia Lewis (MPP ’18)