SESP Participants Get Insider's View on Career Trek to Washington, DC

SESP Participants Get Insider's View on Career Trek to Washington, DC

career trek

For three eye-opening days in September, two SESP students, one recent SESP graduate and a SESP adviser met with Washington, D.C., insiders on the first-ever Northwestern “career trek” open to all students. A group of 15 students and five staff members visited a range of employers and alumni in fields of government, policy and law.

Career exploration was the purpose of the career trek from September 3 to 5, when students gained an up-close look at careers of interest and began to network within those fields. The trip was sponsored by University Career Services.

“Students got a lot of crucial resources they would need to develop careers,” says social policy adviser Ken Powers, who helped to plan and lead the trip. “They also saw firsthand the inner dynamics of working in Washington.” SESP sophomores Bella Sandoval and Evan Frost took part in the experience, along with Nick Kazvini-Gore (BS14).

Frost says, "I gained quite a bit from the trip. It gave the participants exposure to a number of possible career paths including working on Capitol Hill, think tanks and law firms. I realized that some possible future careers were not for me. In my opinion, that is just as important as finding something you love. The trip also allowed me to get a feel for what life was like in D.C. from both the people living there and from the freedom the chaperones gave us after we visited the sites."

Sandoval agrees, "In broad terms, I have better insight on how life in the politics and policy world is in DC. Because of the Trek, I now have a better idea of how to get my foot in the door of Capitol Hill and the White House."  

On the career trek, students visited the following people and destinations:

  • Department of Justice
  • Former Congressman John Edward Porter (Northwestern alumnus and partner at Hogan Lovells)
  • Brookings Institution
  • Alumni panel at Winston & Strawn law firm
  • Urban Institute
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Capitol Hill staffers and Capitol tour
  • Dinner with former Congressman Jim Kolbe (Northwestern alumnus)
  • White House tour
  • Cody Keenan (Northwestern alumnus and president’s chief speechwriter)

Highlights included Porter, Kolbe and Keenan sharing their career experiences and advice, and young alumni sharing their reactions to graduate school and how it affected their careers. Notable think tanks gave presentations about their work and how it impacts policy, Department of Justice staffers reviewed research and hiring practices, and Capitol Hill staff discussed how to find jobs on Capitol Hill. 

For Frost, a special highlight was having pizza at Congressman Kolbe’s home. “Congressman Kolbe gave an insiders perspective on the polarization gripping today's House and Senate, stating how he believed it originated and some possible ways of fixing it. … Another highlight was the NU Club of D.C. organizing a small get together of area graduates to discuss grad school and generally hang out. It was so cool to see how even though their time at Northwestern had passed and they were in the process of taking courses at other schools in the D.C. area, the alumni still bleed purple.”

Alumni hosted the Northwestern delegation at most of the sites. “A goal was to involve alumni,” says Powers. “The alumni were so willing to help.”

Frost notes, “Each day we met interesting and skilled individuals from a number of fields. Meeting young alumni working at the Department of Justice and Senator Kirk's office emphasized just how well Northwestern prepares its students for to start their careers immediately following graduation.”

University Career Services sponsors three career trek explorations in September:

  • Government, policy and law - Washington, D.C.
  • Finance - New York City
  • Media/marketing - New York City

Interested students may visit the career treks web page. Information sessions and application deadlines begin in April, and financial assistance is available for students who receive financial aid. “Finances shouldn’t prevent any student from participating,” says Powers.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 9/11/14