Exploring Career Opportunities and Building Connections in Washington D.C. 

a group of students gathered in front of the Capitol

The Washington D.C. Professional Preparation Program provides students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the professional world of the nation’s capital. The program offers a chance for students to explore a wide range of career options, make connections and gain practical experience.  

This spring, a group of 25 students traveled to DC to attend meetings and events designed to showcase the many internship programs and career tracks available to them. Their experience was not just limited to learning about potential careers but also extended to experiencing the cultural richness of the city, through international dining, attendance at a Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage performance, museum visits and a view of the cherry blossoms in bloom. The students who participated in the program had a diverse range of interests and career aspirations, spanning across various fields such as politics, STEM, arts and policy development.  

This year’s program offered an impressive array of opportunities for students to gain valuable insights into the workings of government and public service. Senator Katie Britt, an alumna of The University of Alabama, delivered an inspiring presentation on how her college experiences helped shape her successful career. The program also featured informative and engaging meetings with UA alumni Chandler Shields, Deputy Chief of Staff for Representative Dale Strong, and Yardena Wolf, Chief of Staff for Representative Eric Swalwell, who shared their unique career paths and insights into the inner workings of congressional offices. 

The program organized a reception for the students to meet and network with alumni of The University of Alabama, who warmly engaged with them and shared their personal and professional experiences. Their generosity continued beyond the reception, as they extended invitations for office visits and shared their personal connections with the students. This level of support and mentorship from alumni is a testament to the strong sense of community and commitment to student success that is fostered at The University of Alabama. 

In addition to networking opportunities, the program offered experiences designed to provide students with a more comprehensive understanding of public service. Visits to Homeland Security, the Kennedy Center and the Secret Service offered insights into the complexities of policymaking and the interplay between various agencies and organizations. The tour of the Capitol was a standout experience during the trip to D.C. Officer Tyrone Bond and his colleagues from the Capitol Police force led the tour and went above and beyond by not only showcasing the Capitol, but also discussing their important roles in law enforcement and what inspired them to pursue their careers. 

The program offers far more than just a trip to Washington D.C. For some, mastering the use of the Metro system, honing their professional image and perfecting their networking skills represent significant learning opportunities. For others, exposure to the countless career opportunities available in the public sector helps to broaden their perspectives and shape their future goals.  

“A few learned that while they might want to work for the government, they don’t want to live in a big city, which we consider as one of the greatest learning experiences: learning what you don’t want to do,” stated Pam Derrick, DC program lead. “The students who claimed that they had “Potomac Fever” after viewing the monuments during a night tour, are ready to return and have already started pursuing summer internships.” 

The impact of the program on the students has been remarkable. Many have continued to pursue their professional development through internships, graduate school programs and international experiences. The bonds formed during the program have proven to be enduring, with many former participants remaining close friends and dedicated supporters of the program. This kind of community support and commitment to personal and professional growth is what sets the Washington D.C. Professional Preparation Program apart. 

“This year’s group also shows great interest in expanding their career interest and utilizing the contacts they made during the trip. It will be interesting to see what they achieve,” exclaimed Derrick. 

Looking ahead to the future, the program will continue to provide a unique opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the professional world of Washington D.C. For any student looking to explore their professional aspirations and make a lasting impact in the world of public service, the Washington D.C. Professional Preparation Program is truly an opportunity not to be missed.  

The Washington D.C. Professional Preparation Program is an initiative of the College of Arts and Sciences ICUE Connector. For more information, see https://bit.ly/425dy0J.