Monday March 27, 2017

Capitol Hill Connections

Visiting Washington, D.C., as part of the University of Dayton’s first “Dayton2DC” cohort in 2013 helped alumnus Dylan Moore ’15 launch his career on Capitol Hill, where he is now a legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana.

On that trip, Moore met fellow University alum David Schnittger ’93, then deputy chief of staff in U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner’s leadership office.

“I was able to pursue an internship and later a position as a staff assistant with Speaker Boehner,” Moore said. “That was all from this trip and the connections I made.”

Moore was one of nearly four dozen Washington-based alumni who shared their experiences and advice with 22 undergraduate and two graduate students on this year’s fifth Dayton2DC trip, March 1-4, during spring break.

Dayton2DC is a career-immersion experience that allows students to explore a wide range of federal, public and private sector career opportunities in the nation’s capital. Students also learn how to transition to life in the country’s most competitive job market for new college graduates.

“There is only so much a professor can tell you about D.C. or about that kind of career,” said Dan Birdsong, lecturer in the department of political science and Dayton2DC program coordinator. “Having someone speak from that experience goes a very long way.”

The program also provides opportunities for students to network with some of the University’s 3,000 alumni in Washington — the seventh-largest concentration in the U.S. — to make contacts that could lead to an internship, first job or career.

More than 125 students have participated in the Dayton2DC program, including this year’s cohort. Of the 71 participants who have graduated to date, more than 30 percent are now working in Washington in some capacity.

“Over the last four years, about five from every group make the jump to D.C., so there is a growing cohort of new alumni there,” Birdsong said.

The program is a collaborative effort among the political science department, the College of Arts and Sciences and the University honors program.

Students are selected through an application process and pay $250 toward their trip expenses, so they are invested in the experience. The program covers the rest of their costs, including airfare, three nights in a shared hotel room, airport transportation, most meals and use of a Metrorail card for city transportation.

Each new alumnus in Washington becomes a resource to help future graduates, said Grant Neeley, associate professor and political science department chair.

“What speaks volumes is the alumni’s willingness to come back and engage with current Flyers for a mentoring session and to help them with that very first, hardest part, which is landing that first internship or that first job,” Neeley said.

Dominique Yantko ’14 is a legislative assistant to Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, specializing in national security issues. She credited the Dayton2DC program with connecting her to an internship with Rep. Bob Gibbs of Ohio, as well as her first post-graduation job as staff assistant to former Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin.

“I came on this trip three years ago and I can honestly say it changed my life,” Yantko said. “That’s a bold statement, but it’s true. Without it, I wouldn’t have landed my job on the Hill and I wouldn’t be as successful as I am in D.C.”

Yantko and Moore were among those who spoke to this year’s cohort as part of a young alumni panel at the Longworth House Office Building during the students’ day on Capitol Hill.

The 2017 trip got off to a bumpy start — literally — when strong storms in Washington forced the cohort’s plane to be diverted to Pittsburgh for refueling.

“Bonus city,” Neeley exclaimed as the plane touched down for its unscheduled layover. He chaperoned the students, along with Birdsong, honors program Associate Director Laura Cotten and former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, University distinguished research associate.

As soon as they arrived at their Washington-area hotel, the students quickly changed into business attire to attend Wednesday evening’s State of Ohio Birthday Celebration at the Library of Congress James Madison Building, hosted by the Ohio Society of Washington, D.C.

There, the students enjoyed a balcony view of the illuminated Capitol dome and heard remarks by Ohio elected officials who included Sen. Rob Portman, Rep. Mike Turner and Rep. David Joyce. They also networked with fellow guests.

Jamie Vieson, a junior from Akron, Ohio, with a double-major in philosophy and human rights studies, will return to Washington this summer as part of the University’s DC Flyers summer internship program. She met Ian Edgley ’16, an intern for Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who was looking for interns from Akron.

“We exchanged cards and I sent him my resume,” Vieson said the next day. “He got back to me this morning, saying that he was going to pass that along and see what opportunities they might have available for me this summer.”

On Thursday, the cohort left the hotel at 7 a.m. for a full day on Capitol Hill that included two alumni panels at the Longworth House on legislative office careers; a guided tour of the U.S. Capitol; and three panels in the Capitol building on congressional committees, executive branch agencies and international diplomacy. The last panel was with former U.S. Ambassador G. Philip Hughes ’72.

Brendan Sweetman, a senior political science major from Chicago and president of the University Student Government Association, had planned to pursue a career in state government. Instead, he now might seek a position on Capitol Hill.

“This trip has really opened my eyes in terms of how many opportunities are out here and how many different pursuits you can have in a town like this,” Sweetman said.

The committees panel resonated with Jack Huffman, a junior political science major from Lima, Ohio, who is considering law school after graduation. Many of the panelists had followed a similar professional path.

“My two interests are a career in politics and a career in law, and trying to find a way to bridge those two,” Huffman said. “Hearing a lot of people on that panel today talk about how they’ve done that was really interesting and beneficial.”

Charlotte Shade, a senior environmental biology major from Clayton, Ohio, with a minor in sustainability, is interested in pursuing an environmental policy career.

“No matter what I do here, it sounds like you have to start on the Hill or somewhere similar to get your foot in the door,” Shade said. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. But also, it seems like a lot of the jobs here look for those soft skills — can you write concisely and can you crunch these numbers and analyze them, which is what I learned as a biologist. So, I learned that my skills are transferrable.”

Thursday evening, the students networked with University alumni at a reception at the Capital Hilton. Many then walked three blocks to see the White House at night before heading back to the hotel to get some sleep before another fast-paced, nonstop day.

On Friday, the students split into separate groups for a series of panels at offices across the city, including Plan International USA, FTI Consulting, FiscalNote, the National Confectioners Association and Meridian International Center. These sessions dealt with careers in public policy, government relations, strategic communications, and international development and diplomacy.

“You may think of D.C. as only Capitol Hill, but we wanted to give a broad idea of the other possibilities out there,” Birdsong said.

Lauren Durnwald, a junior from Toledo, Ohio, with a double-major in psychology and human rights studies, will return this summer with the DC Flyers cohort and hopes to intern at a human rights-based nonprofit.

“I wanted get a feel for the city and learn more about what the options are for careers here, and network with some of the alumni,” Durnwald said.

That included visiting Meridian International, where she had applied for an internship, and meeting with Meg Poole ’94, director of the nonprofit global leadership organization. After she returned to campus, Durnwald accepted a summer internship position in Meridian’s Pan-Africa Leadership Youth program.

Similarly, Eden Williams met with Ann Hudock ’90, senior vice president for internal programs at Plan International USA. Williams, a junior from Cincinnati majoring in international studies, will intern this summer in the child-centered development organization’s Youth and Economic Empowerment sector.

“I sent Ann Hudock my resume and she sent it up, and that’s how I got the internship,” Williams said. “I wanted to meet her and thank her.”

The networking continued Friday evening at a young alumni reception at the Crystal City Sports Pub.

On Saturday, the students discussed what they’d learned at a breakfast debriefing. Then they spent the day exploring the city’s famous monuments and museums before their evening flight home.

Speaking at the Capitol Hilton reception, College Dean Jason Pierce noted the students, faculty and staff were giving up their spring break in favor of the program.

“I want to commend the students who have opted to come on this trip, and I hope they are seeing doors open and new vistas in terms of careers and internships,” he said.

Pierce also extended thanks to alumni who support the program financially or by participating in the networking panels and events.

“One of the things I noticed as I was looking at the program for this year is the growing number of alumni panelists who were participants on the program just a few years ago,” he said. “That is just phenomenal to see. It’s so exciting — folks like Dominique and many other alums who benefited from the program and now are giving back to it.”

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

2017 DAYTON2DC COHORT

Student Year Major Hometown
Maggie Boyd Junior Political Science Peoria, Arizona
Renee Brocker Senior International Studies Dublin, Ohio
Nick Dalton Junior International Studies Beavercreek Township, Ohio
Lauren Durnwald Junior Psychology, Human Rights Studies Toledo, Ohio
Thomas Ferrall Sophomore Political Science Valley Stream, New York
John Michael Gomez Sophomore Political Science, Economics Hewitt, New Jersey
Ryan Harpst Junior Business Economics Rockford, Michigan
Emily Haynes Junior History, Women's and Gender Studies West Chester, Ohio
Reggie Henderson Senior Operations Management Dayton, Ohio
Jack Huffman Junior Political Science Lima, Ohio
Katherine Liming Junior Communication, Political Science Defiance, Ohio
Haley Naughton Junior Political Science Strongsville, Ohio
Austin Pirc Senior Political Science, International Studies Norwalk, Ohio
Lauren Reid Junior Criminal Justice, Political Science Madison, Connecticut
Morgan Reiser Junior Psychology Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Katelyn Rendulic Graduate MPA Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Sarah Richard Sophomore Mechanical Engineering Evans City, Pennsylvania
Charlotte Shade Senior Environmental Biology Clayton, Ohio
Dori Spaulding Graduate MPA Dayton, Ohio
Brendan Sweetman Senior Political Science Chicago, Illinois
Emma Venetis Junior Communication, Sociology Downers Grove, Illinois
Jamie Vieson Junior Human Rights Studies, Philosophy Akron, Ohio
Emma Welsh Junior International Studies Downers Grove, Illinois
Eden Williams Junior International Studies, Spanish Cincinnati, Ohio

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