From Jan. 23 to Jan. 26, a group of 20 politically-minded students left the Purple Bubble and embarked on the Stanley Kaplan Program in American Foreign Policy and The Williams Career Center’s Second Annual Foreign Affairs Career Trek to Washington, D.C.
According to Manager of Alumni and Parent Engagement Programs at the Career Center Dawn Dellea, plans to form a trip for students interested in public policy began in May of 2016, when U.S. Senator Chris Murphy ’96 suggested “building a stronger connection between Williams students and D.C. alumni/opportunities,” Dellea said.
Dellea, Murphy, Career Center Director Don Kjelleren, Director of Commencement and Academic Events Carrie Greene and Director of the Kaplan Program and Chair of the Political Science Department James McAllister all collaborated to initiate career event talks for College summer interns working in D.C. during the summer of 2017, while Greene continued to plan funding with Kjelleren for the future.
After months of planning, the first Career Trek occurred in January of 2017. The Trek aims to educate students on “the various pathways to careers in foreign policy,” Dellea said, through engagement between students and alumni about current global issues and academic opportunities offered through the College, such as the the Summer Institute in American Foreign Policy, the Kaplan Council and the Alumni Sponsored Internship Program. Students on this year’s Trek worked through four jam-packed days of travel and meetings to complete an itinerary described by participant Bennett Kaplan ’19 as a “whirlwind of activity.” Though sleep was in short supply, morale and engagement were never lacking as students took advantage of the amazing set of resources before them.
The group of alumni who met with the group in New York and Washington, D.C. allowed students to survey the varying professional paths that exist within the political realm. In each meeting, students learned alums’ stories of “how they got there” after graduating from the College, what work in offices such as the Justice Department and the National Security Council looks like on a day-to-day basis and what advice the alumni had for students aspiring to careers in the political world. Some alumni included Ned Carmody ’73, a retired CIA operations officer, and Laurel Jarombek ’15, a managing editor of World Policy Journal, a foreign affairs publication.
Students noted that in receiving accounts of political careers, they became more informed of the realities, good and bad, of working in politics.
“[I] felt like I gained a much better understanding of what a path to a career in the civil service might look like,” Kaplan said.
The Trek gave students insight into something rarely visible at the College: life after graduation. Since all meetings were strictly off the record, the conversations between current and former College students were honest and candid. This departure from cookie-cutter accounts of jobs and career paths was both immediately noticeable and remarkably helpful for students thinking about their own professional futures.
Some students on the trip said they felt lucky to have access to the College alumni network. Ben Hearon ’20, who interned for his Congressional representative last summer, called the Trek “an invaluable opportunity to gain access to people, ideas and career advice which would otherwise be inaccessible.”
These conversations not only gave students important information to take with them on their own professional journeys but also created networks within specific sectors of the political world for students to tap into for post-College opportunities. In fields like politics and civil service, where there is no obvious entry point or professional path, these contacts are invaluable.
The Career Center offers other trips with similar goals of introducing students to alumni working in their fields of interest. Previous and future trips include the Broad Institute Trek, the Boston Startup Career Trek, the Tech Trek to NYC, the Wall Street Career Trek and the Investment Management Career Trek.