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Day on the Hill: Not Just Politics as Usual

Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014

Participants in the eighth annual Day on the Hill excursion returned from Washington, D.C. with a firsthand glimpse into the institutions that help turn the political world.

Thanks to the ever-growing network of HWS friends, parents and alums, a group of 16 students -- led by HWS faculty and staff -- explored the inner workings of life in the nation's capital, kicking off Wednesday, Jan. 8, with personal tours of the Pentagon and the FBI.

"That's pretty special," says Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman. "It's an indication that while every year, Day on the Hill is wonderful, it just keeps getting better and better. When we started it really was just ‘day' on the hill. After a couple years, it became ‘days' -- two days -- but it's been getting longer and longer, with more and more events."

Kris Graham '04 flew to D.C. from the Boston field office to lead the tour of the FBI headquarters, while Lt. Col. H. Ripley Rawlings IV '94 guided the group through the Pentagon, where he serves as a plans officer for the U.S. Marine Corps.

"We got to see the history of the Pentagon, the structure and organization of the building, a sense of how busy it is and what people do there," says Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the Faculty DeWayne Lucas, who connected with Rawlings to organize the Pentagon tour. "Lt. Col. Rawlings thought it would be a great idea to connect with our students in this way and show them the type of work he does. And for me, that's what stands out -- the willingness of HWS alums to give back."

"Career services and the political science department tapped into a large network of alums who met with the group, explained what they did, and answered our questions," says Grant Jones '15. "Being able to connect with such an involved group of alums is very reassuring to know when looking at life after HWS. One of the highlights of the trip was the private tour of the Pentagon given by Lt. Col. Rawlings. He gave us an in-depth look at his role in the Pentagon and how the military should function in a democratic society."

Wednesday night at the Majority Group, a lobbying firm where Hadley Sosnoff '06 is a partner and managing director, a reception was held for Day on the Hill participants, offering students an opportunity to connect with speakers from Thursday's events, as well as alums and other students.

"The trip exceeded my expectations," says Kristyna Bronner '14. "I was able to meet so many interesting alums, all of whom are very willing and eager to help current students. Hearing the stories of all of the different graduates made me realize that there are even more career opportunities in D.C. than I originally imagined."

The next morning, Rawlings delivered the day's keynote lecture, which was followed by presentations and panel discussions on subjects ranging from lobbying to communications, marketing to public policy. Alums from non-governmental organizations, campaign committees, senatorial offices, newspapers and more shared their years of expertise and experience.

With the help of Alumni House, Thursday concluded with the Day on the Hill Networking Reception at the United States Capitol Visitor Center, with more than 100 guests in attendance, including U.S. Rep. Alan Lownethal '62 (D-Calif.); U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen '69, L.H.D.'01 (R-N.J.); U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.); U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.); former U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Ida.); and HWS President Mark D. Gearan.

"The opportunity to speak to alums freely during the reception was one of the biggest highlights of the program," says Subin Nepal '15. "As an international relations and political science double major, it was a great way to see alums who majored in similar areas work in professional sector and utilize their education at HWS in day-to-day life."

"Not knowing if I wanted to pursue a career on the Hill or go into lobbying or nonprofit work, the Day on the Hill experience was rewarding in the sense that we were able to hear from people currently in those positions," says Shannon Casey '16.

The final day of the trip, after a tour of the U.S. Secret Service Headquarters by Stuart Hillenbrand '04 of the Presidential Protective Division, students divided into groups and toured institutions with Deutchman, Lucas and Jackie Doyle, assistant director of employer development at the Salisbury Center for Career Services and Professional Development.

"Capitol Hill is a theme in D.C.," says Doyle, who helped coordinate the Day on the Hill experience. "Students got a great perspective on what life is like working on the hill. This program featured very conservative advocates and activists, very liberal advocates and activists, lobbyists, think-tank directors, and more. The variety allows this program to appeal to a broad audience."

From the moderate-Republican Ripon Society to the hardline conservative Heritage Foundation, from the UN Foundation to the United States Agency for International Development, students were exposed to the arenas of politics and policy in which some of them will one day find themselves making a difference.

 


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