April 17, 2019—It’s one thing to imagine a career in government, but it’s another thing to meet the people actually living that dream. In March, Marist’s School of Liberal Arts, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Center for Career Services, and Alumni Association teamed up to organize a unique two-day field trip for students interested in pursuing careers in Washington, DC. The DC Public Service Career Trip attracted 41 students from several academic majors, all of whom traveled to the nation’s capital to tour iconic government sites, attend career panels, and network with Marist alumni. They were accompanied by Dean of the School of Liberal Arts Martin Shaffer, as well as Desmond Murray and Kevin McCall from the Center for Career Services. Some students were newcomers to DC, while others already knew the city well. For example, Gabriela Hasaj ’19 of Bondville, Vermont spent last spring interning for US Representative Sean Patrick Maloney. No matter their level of experience, however, all found the trip eye-opening.
Setting off early in the morning on March 18, the group arrived in Washington, DC in time to attend the FBI Experience Tour, a self-guided tour of FBI Headquarters featuring interactive multimedia exhibits and historical artifacts. For the criminal justice majors in the group, it was an especially welcome opportunity to explore the many facets of this storied law enforcement organization. The FBI tour was arranged by Marist alumnus and retired FBI agent Dan Matthews ’84/’00M, who met with students afterwards to discuss internships and careers at the Bureau. Later that evening, the group stopped by the Army and Navy Club in Farragut Square for a networking event with alumni residing in the DC area, as well as a number of Marist parents. The reception was organized by Executive Director of Alumni Relations Amy Woods. President David Yellen was also on hand to welcome attendees and provide an update on activities at the College. The students spent the evening socializing with alumni and friends of all ages and career backgrounds, gaining valuable insights.
Meaghan Shea '22 (far right) at a networking event.
Many of the students commented on how open and encouraging the Marist alumni were, and how they would feel comfortable reaching out to them in the future. Noted Meaghan Shea ’22, a political science major/philosophy minor from Warwick, New York, “I met with alumni who had similar interests, and seeing where those interests brought them was extremely enticing. I could definitely see myself working and living in DC after graduation!” Matthew Thomson ’20, a political science major from Southington, Connecticut agreed that the networking was invaluable. “Presenting yourself to someone you don’t know is a really important career skill, and it was great to have the opportunity to practice. I made some great contacts who I’ve connected with on LinkedIn and who have even offered to pass my name along to colleagues.” Added Clare Falkowski ’22, “The most important piece of information I took away was to reach out (even if it may seem like a long shot), make connections, and keep those connections. Even if those connections are not in your field, they may provide another connection who is.” Falkowski, from Buffalo, New York, double majors in psychology and criminal justice, and she credits the DC trip with clarifying her desire to become a foreign language analysist specializing in Arabic.
Students and alumni networking at the Army and Navy Club.
The students spent their second day on Capitol Hill attending two panel discussions intended to give them insights into Washington’s numerous career paths. The first panel, “Executive Branch Agencies and Government Relations: Health and Security, Global Affairs, and Political Analysis,” featured Marist alumni with experience in a number of areas, including the Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Government Accountability Office, as well as the private sector. Following a networking break, students attended a second panel, “Capitol Hill Politics and Government Relations: Health Care, Environmental Concerns, and Political Communications.” This panel included talks from Marist graduates currently working in the US Senate and House of Representatives; also represented were several alumni working in the non-profit sector in government relations. Students had the chance to pose questions to the panelists and speak with them afterwards. The students’ visit ended with a tour of the US Capitol before their return to New York.
Thomson found the career panels “extremely informative.” He added, “To see people who went to Marist just like me and who are now living my dream showed me that it can be done. It was very motivating.” Thomson plans to pursue a career as a lobbyist in DC. According to Courtney Fallon ’21, who hails from Agawam, Massachusetts, “The connections I made on the trip opened my eyes to what the working world is really like. As a social work major with a paralegal certificate, I found out how relevant my social work curriculum is to all the different positions in Washington, DC.” Fallon also has minors in political science and sociology and sees herself doing an internship in DC before she graduates from Marist.
Gabriela Hasaj '19 (center) speaking to panelists after a career discussion.
Hasaj found the trip similarly useful. “The DC Career Trip was a wonderful experience. I went because I wanted to network and also understand how I can practically apply my political science degree. The trip answered that question. I don’t just have to work for a member of Congress or on a campaign; I can also be a lobbyist, a diplomat, work for a non-profit, or work in government relations for a private business. This experience really solidified my confidence in myself and showed me that there’s no reason I can’t be competitive in the labor market.” Likewise, Madeline Casalino ’19, an English major from Locust Valley, New York, felt empowered by the trip. “I spoke with so many interesting people of all backgrounds. The trip made me more confident in my future. I know that if I pursue my interests, I will succeed.” Casalino would like to enter a field that focuses on environmental or cultural studies.
Looking back on the journey, Shaffer commented, “The students had a great experience learning about the many career paths that exist in Washington, DC, and I am grateful to the many alumni who were so generous with their time. While the two days in DC were great, the best part is the ongoing networking that now exists between our students and our alumni. We will definitely be going back next year for our second DC Public Service Career Trip, and it is going to be even better.” The excursion demonstrated the abundance of support and camaraderie that exist among Red Foxes of all ages. Reflecting on the ongoing value of the experience for her, Fallon observed, “The alumni were so nice and open to talking to me about their journey after college – I’m looking forward to keeping the conversation going!”