December 4, 2013 by Katie LeCornu
I can’t believe this is the last week of classes. Together, the students in our program have grown into young professionals and learned things that can never be taught in a classroom. I’ll give a recap of what we’ve been up to.
A few weekends ago, most of the program went down to campus for Homecoming. It was great to be surrounded by Tribe Pride instead of the concrete jungle of DC. The tailgates this year were awesome! A whole pig was being roasted on a grill and a bunch of student groups were rallying. Best of all, we won our game against JMU. Saturday night, a group of friends and I went to see Freelance Whales perform in Sadler. They were fantastic live – I’m always so impressed by the great bands W&M and AMP can book.
One of my highlights of the past few weeks was going to meet my Texas senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. I tagged along with one of my fellow Cato interns from Texas who was invited to “Texas Tuesday” where the senators meet with their constituents in town. There’s an inexplicable comfort that comes from being in a room of all Texans. Ted Cruz has made such a stink up here in Washington, and although I don’t always agree with his politics, I respect him as a Texan representative. And it was cool to meet the guy who shutdown the government.
We had our last Slice of Advice from Adam, and he told us how to wrap up our internship and leave a lasting impression. He said to hold onto projects that can be put into a portfolio. Write a letter of thanks to your supervisor, and write a letter of advice to be given to the next person in your position. I would have loved to have a bit of guidance coming into my internship, so I’m definitely willing to give some hints to the next person.
During the Slice of Advice, the W&M in DC office staff were decorating the room for a baby shower to surprise Roxane. She was so surprised when she walked in! We played games like unscrambling baby words and Nursery Rhyme Jeopardy. She got some baby outfits and baby necessities. Of course, she needed those things a lot sooner than she thought because 4 days later, she went into labor a month early, and now we have Piper Quinn Adler Hickey.
Upon realizing that we only had a few weeks left in DC, I spent a few weekends checking things off my DC “to-do” list. A friend from campus came one weekend and we went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. It wasn’t the best Smithsonian I’d been to – it was a bit sparse in exhibits – but seeing the Star Spangled Banner was amazing. So much history in just that piece of fabric! After the Smithsonian, we went to Hill Country BBQ, which is apparently the best BBQ in DC. “Hill Country” refers to where I live – the hills in and around Austin. As an Austinite who has the real thing at home, this restaurant was impressively like the real thing. They even had Bluebell Ice Cream! Little did we know when we went, there was a Longhorn football game on. The entire restaurant was dressed in burnt orange. One guy had a Longhorn cape and a burnt orange suit! When UT scored, the restaurant erupted in cheers and chants. Eating BBQ with a bunch of Austinites, I rarely feel so at home even at home!
Also on my to-do list was a trip to Alexandria. The shops in Old Town were all really cute, and the trip was perfect for a fall day. We ended up stopping to eat in Killer ESP (espresso, sorbetto, pie). When it said pie, I thought that meant fruit pie, but turns out “pie” is quiche-like meat pies that were delicious. Also, we tried their home-made sorbet, and it was fantastic! I see why people love Alexandria – it’s a great escape from the city.
The next weekend I got up early on Saturday to go to the Holocaust Museum when it opened. It’s an interesting set-up: on the first floor, you pick up a little booklet that tells about someone in the Holocaust. Then you get in an elevator that takes you straight up to the fourth floor. In the elevator ride, you are shown a video introducing you to the museum, then you work your way through the exhibits. The fourth floor gave an explanation about the conditions in Germany that made the Holocaust manifest. The third floor gave detailed stories about the Jewish ghettos and the concentration camps. The second floor showed the rescue efforts and the aftermath. As you reached the next floor, you turned the page in your booklet to follow the journey of your person, and in the end you learn their fate. My girl “perished”. The most moving part was when the exhibit lead you through a train car that the victims had been shoved into for transport to the concentration camps. Standing in the car, you could smell the mildew and sweat, see hand prints on the floor, and feel the ghost of previous human presence. It was creepy. The museum was definitely one of my favorite things in DC – it gave me a much better understanding of the Holocaust.
Later I met up with other students in the program for Andrew’s birthday. He wanted to go to District Taco (yum!) and then to the Smithsonians. We started out at the Air and Space Museum, and then we were about to go to the American Indian Museum, when someone decided to jump off the fourth floor balcony and they evacuated the building…
On Sunday night, the program had our own little Thanksgiving. Everyone brought something, and we had a feast. Chris cooked a turkey, and Megan made fantastic sweet potatoes. There was mac-n-cheese and cranberry sauce and lots of desserts – it was perfect, and it got our tummies ready for the actual Thanksgiving!
For the next few days, we will be finishing up our essays and our internships and moving out. On Monday instead of class, Professor Abegaz invited a panel from the Millennium Challenge Corporation to speak to us and a handful of DC alumni. Tonight we have our farewell dinner with our bosses and mentors. It’s winding down, and I can’t believe this semester has gone by so fast!
December 2, 2013 by Daniel Reichwein
A fireman, a lawyer, an astronaut, a scientist, a professional lottery winner, a philanthropist, even a male model were all on my list of future careers as I was growing up.
Being homeless for three years certainly wasn’t on the list. Nor was the hereditary health problem that caused me to become homeless, be discharged from the U.S. Army reserve, and withdraw from Indiana University – where I used to study on academic scholarship. No, that sure wasn’t how I envisioned my future as I stared blissfully at that fire engine birthday cake. Those events stunted my academic career to the point where I am now an undergraduate student 10 years older than my peers.
The basis for my idea of what I wanted to do when I grew up matured as I matured. When I was in a foster home (the picture above is from one that was initially good), I wanted to be a fireman because that fire truck was just so cool. It had a ladder and could spray a ton of water everywhere. I could ride that truck on my way to rescue kittens in trees and save people. Then, when I was adopted into a family, Miles, the lawyer who arranged it, became my hero. I wanted to be like him – making things right, saving kids from bad people.
In elementary school, I started learning about science. What’s cooler than firetrucks? Being an astronaut in outer space, of course. It would be the grandest adventure ever. Exploring the stars, visiting all the planets, exploring the unknown, leaving the familiar behind. My mind seemed suited for science as I learned about Newton’s & Einstein’s work. There was so much depth and knowledge to uncover in our own world too.
As I got older, I became more aware of the need for money. My adoptive father worked a low-paying job at a bakery an hour away trying to provide for five children. Times could be tough back then. It showed in the disparity between us and the middle class kids in school. I knew the perfect solution: to become a professional lottery winner! In my late high school years, I became selfish in my career ambitions and thought of becoming a male model. They made a lot of money, looked good, and were smooth with the ladies.
Then, while I was in my second year of university, I began to experience the health problems that ultimately led to my homelessness. That journey is long enough to fill a whole book, but if you’re interested, you can check out an old blog I started in the twilight of my life on the streets. Being homeless opened my eyes to a part of the American population that most people disregard as self-made poverty cases. I didn’t find that to be true. Eventually I was connected with a homeless support organization where a social worker helped me get back into college and find a job. At my new job a co-worker discovered I was homeless. She let me live with her, and I found a new, “adoptive” family.
This exposure to a sometimes overlooked socioeconomic problem and the kindheartedness that strangers showed to help someone in need truly inspired me. It inspired me to my newest aspiration of what I want to be when I grow up. I want to use my new passion and experience with the homeless community and current alleviation solutions to help the homeless people throughout our country. I plan to repudiate negative stereotypes by telling people about my experiences and to utilize the kindness of others in intelligent ways.
The College of William & Mary recently helped me explore my passion by paying for me to attend a social entrepreneurship convention in North Carolina run by the Sullivan Foundation. During this “retreat” weekend, students discussed and contemplated big questions such as what are you truly passionate about and what would you do if money wasn’t a concern. Those who had an idea that they wanted to manifest into a positive change in the world got to sit down in a small group and exchange ideas with each other and a facilitator who works for a non-profit. We also had a crash course in design thinking and formed some mock business plans for socially-conscious firms. Through this exploration I came to the realization that while helping people was my passion, I was not willing to make sacrifices to my personal financial security.
I don’t want to have to worry about paying my bills just because I choose to make a career out of helping others. Starting my own venture would be too risky, and I don’t want to grind years of experience to get a decision-maker/change-maker job helping people. Thus, I plan on attending graduate school and then either working full-time in a professional law or business career while manifesting my philanthropic aspirations on my own time OR earning an MBA then working full-time in management for a large, well-funded organization that helps Americans in need.
It’s tough knowing what you want to do with your life at such a young age. Some people are fortunate enough to find their passion as a kid with college just serving as credential development to get their dream job. Other times, you have to learn about different subjects or explore different jobs to find your passion, and that’s perfectly fine. A retiree turned business professor told me recently that sometimes you even find that what you’re passionate about changes every decade. Unexpectedly, I figured out what I wanted to do through a painful experience.
Whatever you want to be when you’re grown up and out of William & Mary, make sure it’s something you’re passionate about and don’t forget to take some time to help the community in which you live and work. And if you haven’t figured out your passion, it’s okay. Try a class that sounds interesting; talk to our wonderful faculty advisors or the Career Center; and don’t forget about your professors. They are fountains of knowledge and experience, eager to pass that on to you.
November 18, 2013 by Erin Spencer
Have you ever faced a moment that might change your life?
Do you remember the feeling? It’s a lot of nervous anticipation combined with excitement and cautious optimism. There’s also a lot of, “how did I get here?”
I know the feeling, because it’s exactly how I feel right now.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop just one block away from the National Geographic headquarters. In one hour, I’ll pack my bag and walk into the lobby, where I’ll be met by a stranger. She will lead me through the building into a conference room where there will be more people I’ve never met. I then have ten minutes to present my research from the summer and try to convince this group of strangers that they made a good investment when they decided to give me a grant. Oh, yea, and this group of strangers consists of some of the top leaders in the field—they are archaeologists, zoologists, writers, photographers, conservationists and anthropologists.
No pressure, right?
So as I sit here, between obsessively practicing my presentation and downing cups of coffee (but let’s be real – it’s not like I need more caffeine), my mind wanders to all of my senior friends who have experienced this exact feeling. That feeling your life is about to change.
When I was a freshman, seniors seemed in a league of their own—the three-year age difference felt like an unbreakable barrier. Although I had senior friends, our friendship was relatively superficial, as there were few that I found I could really relate to. It didn’t bother me much, I had plenty of underclassman friends to occupy my time, but I never quite understood the difference between the seniors and myself. Yea, they’re about to graduate, but we’re all college students, right?
Now that I’m a senior, I see things differently. As underclassmen, you may not know what you’re doing for the summer, but you know that ultimately you’re coming back to W&M. For the immediate future, you’re set. As seniors, we’re staring down a path with a “Road Ends Here” sign, and a great, empty void beyond it. Some view this void with great anxiety, but I find it unbelievably exciting (although ask me again in March and see what happens).
Our last year at school is dedicated to filling that void. Weeks consist of information sessions, job applications, Career Center appointments, and stressed conversations with friends to commiserate about it all. And within that are dozens of tiny moments where you get that feeling. You feel it in that moment right before you hit the “Send” button for that cold email to your dream employer. You feel it right before you drop the application for that fellowship you’ve been dreaming about for months into the mailbox. You feel it as you’re straightening your tie in the waiting area, right before the interviewer calls you in. And although you know there were hundreds of moments that led you to this point, this is the big one. Could this be the moment that changes my life?
Of course, there will be our fair share of rejections and dead ends. But we have no way of knowing, and that uncertainty keeps us pushing forward with each application and interview.
This presentation could be nothing more than a chance for me to practice my public speaking. They could be uninterested or preoccupied. They could be perfectly pleasant, but forget me as soon as I leave the room.
Or, not. I’ll have no way of knowing. I can only focus on putting my best foot forward and hope for the best. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do anyway?
For now, it’s time to go! Fingers crossed!
November 6, 2013 by Stephen Bennett
I hope everyone had a great summer. I am sure there were many internships, jobs and needed relaxing. I traveled to Ghana. I traveled with one of William & Mary’s Social Entrepreneurs, Ali Siddiqui, who serves on the board of the Acumen Fund, the world’s largest social investor, and runs a private equity shop in Pakistan. We traveled to a social enterprise investment in the greater Accra-Tema area that focused on cultivating rice. It contributed to the local community with jobs and opportunities. Mr. Siddiqui provided insight into the importance of understanding the community and being transparent and honest with the community. Foreigners and Ghanaian people operated it, but they distrusted the foreign element in the community. The business owners gave us a tour and explained how Acumen and the community jointly owned it. Although a simple business it was the Acumen fund that helped get it off the ground that gave jobs and social benefits to the people in the surrounding community.
Adam, another student, and I then proceeded to travel with Mr. Siddiqui for the next couple of days as he evaluated the business opportunities in the country for his private firm. We visited various government offices and local business leaders. It opened my eyes to the world of international investing. Mr. Siddiqui examined the ports, the type of infrastructure, the type of raw materials and their quality. He needed to look beyond just economic concerns though. He needed a multifaceted perspective because he had to analyze the culture and the government structure. My liberal arts education from W&M came alive in Ghana as I realized the importance of evaluating each perspective. The College has taught me to blend all the subjects together to really see the greater picture. My anthropology class mixed with my economic development course, which blended with my finance and history courses. I felt that the experience had a greater impact because of my liberal arts background. This provided better insight into understanding international investing, social enterprise, and international relations all in four days in Ghana. I still cannot believe I spent four days there that exemplified the importance of liberal arts and gave me a goal for my career.
The College is a truly special place that extends well beyond the campus. It extends to places where William & Mary students gain these truly unique experiences that open their eyes to the importance of a liberal arts background. William & Mary students continue to learn and pursue unconventional paths because the school continues to offer great opportunities like my trip to Ghana. I went from ushering the Commencement ceremony, to spending a week at the beach with my improv group, to learning about social enterprise and global investing in Ghana, to working in New York City for my summer internship and it made my summer unforgettable. It was a crazy start, but this is the college experience that I can only expect from William & Mary.
Roll Tribe from Ghana,
September 19, 2013 by Katie LeCornu
Well, the DC Fall intern class has officially completed our first full week of work! Armed with pantsuits, briefcases and walking shoes, we venture out every morning with the fellow Crystal City-ers with “real jobs”. Not to say our jobs aren’t real or that we aren’t doing just as much work (and more) than our paid co-workers. We surely look just as professional as the other ho-hum commuters frowning on the Metro. We’ve entered the rat-race, but our spirits are still fresh, and we are ready to take on what is thrown at us.
Corporate America is not what I expected. There are so many little tasks that need to be completed just to keep things running. No, not getting coffee, but entering contact information or updating a database. These tasks seem insignificant, and I find myself asking, “When will the big work start? When will I have that groundbreaking project? When will I be the President of the United States?” Okay, maybe that last one escalated too quickly. But when I take a step back from the tedium, I realize that the small daily tasks I perform save my supervisors a lot of time, which then enables them to do the big things. Once I gain their trust by completing the little chores, they feel comfortable delegating to me the bigger projects, like representing them at an important conference that they don’t have time to attend. Or sending out a daily email to 9,500 people (eek!)
One of the most difficult parts is trying to find the perfect balance of how often to talk to your supervisors. I want to have something to do, but I don’t want to bug them to death. One of the problems I’m facing is the fact that I’m in two departments, so each supervisor assumes the other one gave me something to do. It’s tempting to continue to let them assume that so I don’t have any work, but it can get boring pretending to be productive. I’ve started going to my supervisors in the morning to let them know what is on my plate for the day, so they know that I have time to do certain tasks. I’ve learned that it is important to assert your desire to learn. By being eager to help out and showing you are ready to get your hands a little dirty, supervisors will respect you as an asset to the organization, and treat you like a colleague rather than an understudy. Also, I’ve found that many supervisors want you to get the most out of the experience, so they are willing to help you reach your goals if you just speak up about them. I know it’s nerve-racking, but speaking up to your supervisors can solve a lot of problems and keep you from being forgotten.
In other news, I got to explore a little bit of DC this weekend when a friend came to visit. On Saturday we went to the National Zoo, which is HUGE and free. Although I visited the Zoo on the scavenger hunt, we actually only saw chipmunks and no animals. This time I was able to make it through almost all of the exhibits. My favorite was the otters – they played follow-the-leader the whole time. Also, there was a butterfly room where the butterflies actually would land on you! It seemed like a lot of the animals did not have much room to play – the elephant kept ramming into the gate trying to get out. But I guess in the wild they don’t get fed and protected from poachers, so it’s a tradeoff. Unfortunately the animals don’t get to make that decision for themselves. I don’t know how much I would like being stuck in a cage with snotty kids banging at me…
On Sunday we went to Eastern Market, a super cool neighborhood with an all-day, everyday farmers market. There are a ton of great restaurants in the area, and we settled on one called the Chesapeake Room. After lunch we got a cupcake from a food truck, and headed over to the tents. There was a wide variety of produce – everything from beautiful heads of lettuce to juicy peaches. There were live bands playing, soap shops, art tents and jewelry artisans. It was an awesome atmosphere – definitely a place I want to return to.
Last night the interns had dinner with our mentors. It was fun hearing about their time at William & Mary. Although the campus has changed a lot, the prestige of the school remains. Also, many cool programs have been introduced since their time there, like the DC program. It was great to see that so many alums left W&M prepared for a career that they love. One of the most important things I got out of my dinner was that it’s okay that I don’t know what I want to do after college. My mentor was actually glad that I didn’t know what to do – it gives me time to explore and be flexible. He didn’t settle into something until he was almost thirty, but once he did, he loved it. I think it’s important to take the time to discover where you can do the most good.
September 11, 2013 by Ryann Tanap
Long gone are the days of cold calling (and emailing)! It’s time to take matters into your own hands, with a refreshed perspective.
By now, I’m sure you’re all experts at applying to college (and maybe internship and jobs as well). However, there are some things we may overlook or forget. Below are seven tips for all those navigating, or preparing to navigate, through the seemingly stagnant sea of unemployment. These tips are also for those seeking an alternate route from their current career path. The following aren’t necessarily a perfected formula to get you hired, nor do they lead directly to the dream job of your choosing. However these tips provide insight on how to be proactive and vigilant while steering through the job search.
1. Make a road map of everything.
If you don’t know exactly what your calling is (that’s okay, no one has it all 100% figured out during, and even after, college these days), then it’s time to take a step back. Construct a visual that encompasses you as a person. Look at the big picture. It’s more than just a resume – it’s seeing if what you already have aligns with what you envision for yourself. If they don’t, then outline the steps to get there. This can be in the form of a list, diagram, drawing, collage, or whatever helps you to visualize your goals, and the steps to reach those goals.
As you prepare to create a road map, consider the following questions: What do you want in your next job? What experience – including work, internship, volunteer and leadership – do you have? What are your most important goals and values? How can you tie in everything to lead you to those goals, while staying true to your values?
Some things you may want to highlight include your:
- Assets (degrees, work experience)
- Career Goals (graduate programs, the type of job you want, the hours you’d be willing to work, preferred environment and locations where you’d like to work)
- Interests (professional/personal interests and how you are working towards said interests)
- Guiding Principles (personal values, Life Values inventory, causes you want to stay involved with)
- Personal Goals (actions you vow to take to improve your emotional, mental, emotional and social well-being)
Try to do this exercise a couple times a year, to see if your goals are shifting and to keep track of your progress.
2. Polish off your CV (and other application essentials).
Compile a giant CV (even if they’re more so for established professionals) that contains all of your work experience, education and skills. Provide as much detail as possible (careful to not over-exaggerate or misrepresent yourself, it will catch up with you later).
For your resume: If you are exploring more than one professional field, make different versions of your resume, drawing from the comprehensive CV you already have.
For your cover letter: Again, if you are exploring more than one professional field, you’ll find it helpful to have different versions of a cover letter to tweak as needed (once a job application comes around).
3. Network with everyone, even if you don’t think it’ll lead to a job prospect.
Most jobs and gigs we get result of a connection that we have. It’s all about the people that you know. Having that road map and CV updated will help you to clearly voice your career goals, as well as the direction you’d like to go in.
Contact friends, family, professors, former employers, colleagues, mentors, etc. Update them on your interests and experience and ask for help, and to pass along any info they may come across.
Reach out to people who already specialize in a field you’re interested in. Pick apart their brain. Ask about their experience, as well as any advice they’d be willing to offer.
4. (For current students and recent graduates) Take advantage of all that the W&M Cohen Career Center has to offer (workshops, networking days, office hours, Alumni network, etc.).
Not enough students utilize the Career Center! There are many opportunities, often free! One event that graduating seniors should look out for is the Etiquette Dinner. Registration goes by a first-come, first-serve basis, and allows students to learn about proper etiquette for formal or professional meetings over meals, dinners and special events.
If you’re a recent graduate, you may use the Career Center’s resources for up to two years after graduating. Don’t squander this opportunity.
Easier said than done, but it’s no use sifting through the countless applications you’ve come across if you don’t sit down and start filling out the application. And if you did Step 2, then you’re at an advantage.
6. Ace the Interview(s).
If you are notified that an employer would like to interview you, be as proactive as possible. Respond on time. Ask questions. Show that you’re genuinely interested in the position, and are looking forward to the interview.
While preparing for the interview, do your research (especially if you didn’t when you were applying). Be knowledgeable of the organization/business/firm. Know their mission statement, core values and projects they are working on. Prepare questions you anticipate the interviewer will ask you. Prepare questions you want to ask the interviewer (about the position, the organization, advice, etc.).
Following the interview, send a thank you letter (if it was a panel interview, send a letter to each individual who interviewed you), stressing your interest in the position, as well as your qualifications that would make you the best fit.
7. Follow Up.
Upon receiving a response (hiring or rejection), reply promptly and courteously. Even if you didn’t get the position, express your interest in working with the organization in the future. If the interviewer is able, ask them to notify you of future openings that they believe would be a good fit for you. Don’t sever ties with them simply because you were rejected. Maintain contact, especially if you’re still interested in that particular organization. They may even be able to refer you to other positions with other organizations. Keep your options open.
August 20, 2013 by Aaron Barksdale
After graduating a few months ago, I returned home to my friends, family and seasonal job. All three things are reliable staples of my hometown, and have become new routes that lead back to my experience at William & Mary. There is a fountainhead of W&M alumni that have migrated to DC from Williamsburg, and many of them eclipsed my time at the College. My first weekends back in town were spent reliving the glory days with friends from high school and fellow W&M grads. We shared stories about campus experiences, and the challenges and rewards that awaited me as a new graduate.
The transition back home felt a little odd, after being away at school. This summer many of my friends had left their hometowns, starting new careers or traveling abroad. On the other hand, I returned back to my parent’s house to bide my time until starting grad school. I went on several interviews looking for something within my field of art education with limited success. My achievements were coming at slower pace than my time as an undergrad, and I admit that I was frustrated as well as a little confused. However, I settled back into my routine of working at my seasonal job at a local rock climbing gym, and my summer regained its initial momentum.
I first became involved in outdoor recreation as a freshman at W&M by taking a class called Adventure Games. I recommend it to any prospective or current student as a fun class to spice up a schedule filled with classrooms or labs. The majority of the class is taught on W&M’s ropes course, which is an outdoor obstacle course with various activities and elements. My professor was upbeat and hilarious, and each class felt like a day at a playground for college students. Some days the class played games of Cyclops-tag, rappelled down the campus police station, or traversed the zip-line across Lake Matoaka. My time as both a student and later as an employee on the ropes course prompted me to work at the climbing gym in my hometown.
As a climbing instructor I encounter climbers of all levels, and the experience that I’ve gained in working an unconventional job has prepared me for my work in graduate school. In my classes I teach students the fundamentals of rock climbing, such as: how to use equipment and gear, knot tying and belaying. It’s been incredible taking a hobby that began in a random class at W&M into a fun job. However, the most rewarding part of my time at the gym has been my encounters with W&M alumni who are also fellow climbers. The joy of meeting someone who is also a member of the Tribe is like meeting a new member of your family. My W&M community has continued to grow even though I have left the campus behind.
A summer of rediscovering familiar routes and reaching new heights has bridged my transition between Williamsburg and Manhattan. I leave for NYC in just a week, and I’m excited to start grad school. Likewise, I’m really excited to see if they have a climbing gym on campus!
July 10, 2013 by Andrew Schwieder
Alright I got behind on my posting again (about two months) so I am going to be rushing to get some stories out while they are still fresh in my head.
One of the benefits of studying at St Andrews is that I have covered many more topics of study between William & Mary and St Andrews. One of the things that few students will cover at William & Mary is the topic of the environment, but it is one of the key concepts at StAs such as environmental collaboration between states within conferences or institutions like the UN. This has turned out to be really beneficial to me as I have accepted an internship with the United Nations Environmental Programme, the best part is that it allows me to live in Kingston, Jamaica for three months.
I work within the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Sub-Programme within the over-arching Caribbean Environmental Programme’s Regional Coordinating Unit. Other sub-sections within the same office are the Communications, Education, Training and Awareness Programme, and the Assessment (CETA) and Management of Environmental Pollution (AMEP) Sub-Programme. The office is located in downtown Kingston and something that I am oddly excited about is that the headquarters of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is located on the floor right below us, something that we studied in a fair amount of detail at StAs.
So far my responsibilities within the office have been reviewing reports and updating the resources that SPAW distributes to raise awareness on its actions and projects. This includes updating the SPAW website, a daunting task, but at least I am learning a lot about SPAW as well as a little bit of programming and image editing.
Finally! Now that that post is out of the way I can get to writing about some of the more interesting topics like my experiences in Jamaica since arriving here at the end of May.
June 27, 2013 by Arvin Alaigh
In my last post, I began summarizing my favorite site visits that our Leadership & Community Engagement Institute took during our two week class. Below, I have listed and described four more standout visits.
5. Perhaps one of our most resonating visits came Mike Powell, the son of former Secretary of State, Colin Powell. He opened by sharing his life story with us, beginning with his humble beginnings as a TWAMP (Class of 1985) – a Government major, Yates resident, ROTC cadet and involved student. He continued regaling us with anecdotes from his military career that was unfortunately cut short in an automobile accident while stationed in Germany. Because of the accident, he endured not only an incomprehensible amount of physical pain (he spent a year in the hospital rehabilitating), but emotional pain. Since he was young, he had been working towards a career in the military and following in his father’s footsteps, but his circumstances forced him to change his life’s direction and give up on his dream. These trying times taught Mike to persevere through hardships and redefine success as an attainable end. Following his departure from the military, he tried his hand (and succeeded) in seemingly everything, having attended Georgetown University Law Center, serving a clerk for the DC Court of Appeals, a private attorney and in the Justice Department… not to mention a stint as an advisor to the Department of Defense. He eventually ended up working in the field of communications, serving as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 2001-05, and currently the President of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Mike shared insight on his principle-driven leadership style, which is highlighted by his ten core pillars that shape himself and how he leads. He sees them as sacred and unique to every person – so much so, that he refuses to share his own with anybody. To Mike, the contents of one’s character reign paramount when assessing a leader, and their importance cannot ever be understated. The lecture itself was so captivating that by the end of it, I could not believe an hour and a half and elapsed. His stories, life experiences and advice took the shape of a motivational leadership seminar, and they truly inspired every person listening.
6. In terms of community engagement, DC Central Kitchens is likely the organization that is most directly impacting tangible change. We first met with Chief Executive Officer Mike Curtin, who chronicled a brief history of the organization, along with logistical information on how it is run. First and foremost, Mike made it clear that DCCK is not a soup kitchen. Instead, it distributes food to various soup kitchens and shelters around the District; but its primary purpose is to mobilize otherwise underserved individuals into the workforce. Through a training program that lasts several months, DCCK trains individuals to work in the foodservice industry. After they graduate from the program, the Kitchens will hire these individuals and provide them with a living wage and help them find housing in order to be self-sustaining. They will cook and prepare food that in turn goes out to various places, including soup kitchens, shelters, and as of late, to schools in the District. Throughout his presentation, Mike Curtin was very expressive about the role of his organization in providing opportunities for DC residents. He passionately averred that society had forsaken these individuals, and amidst the inefficiency and inaction of Washington bureaucracy, real people were suffering dire consequences. I thought it was particularly interesting when Mike said that DC Central Kitchens will have been considered successful when it can no longer stay open – it is not often that an organization sets out to go out of business and have its services no longer needed. Though its scope may not be as grand as MCC or Aspen (yet), there is no doubt that DCCK plays an incredibly important role in the lives of many underserved individuals, providing them with a venue to turn their lives around and find success.
7. Penelope Spain was one of only two site visits that actually came to visit us at the William & Mary DC office. She has her background in law, having attended Washington College of Law and graduating in 2005. While in law school, Penelope started a club that allowed students to go to a local detention center, and from this emerged Mentoring Today. She chronicled the organization’s beginnings as a group at WCL dedicated to helping incarcerated youth get reassimilated into society – though it remains small (there are 3 full-time employees), the organization has garnered a fair amount of attention and recognition within the DC/Maryland community. She shared with us the intimate inner-workings of Mentoring Today, shedding light on how she runs a nonprofit with such small overhead. Though she has run into her fair share of hardships, she has remained unwavering in her mission to helping the oft-forgotten youth, providing them with the stable figures that have usually been absent in their lives. I loved her passion and drive, along with her do-it-yourself mentality that inspired her to start her own organization – for these reasons, Penelope was one of my favorites of our site visits.
8. William & Mary/Teach For America alumna/Anacostia High School teacher Lauren Sterner marked the final of our site visits, and in my opinion, it was the most profound. It was the only visit in which we got a firsthand view at a community engager in action. We sat in on two sections of Ms. Sterner’s 9th grade English class, and though not every student seemed engaged in curriculum, she did a phenomenal job in captivating the attention of many. Despite a gentrification project that the school has been undertaking for the past few years, the district is still poorly funded – prior to starting her first class, Ms. Sterner explained that several English teachers would be cut due to budgetary restrictions. We witnessed even other poignant examples of this underfunding during the class itself, from the outdated textbooks that were being used (some were even older than the students themselves), to Ms. Sterner’s announcement to the students that the classroom was out of paper. I view individuals like Lauren as champions of education. Despite having other opportunities, both in profession and in location, she chooses to serve those students who need it and can benefit the most, and I find this admirable to the utmost extent. As someone who has a general interest in education, I was inspired and motivated by seeing Lauren in action. Ideally, we would have gotten to speak to her for longer but this site visit nonetheless impacted our class greatly.
As I stated in my previous posts, our two week class was not a William & Mary class in a traditional sense. Sure, we had our fair share of readings, discussions, lectures and writing assignments, but we still found time to visit many outstanding organizations/individuals all around DC. At times, it seemed overwhelming, considering the sheer amount of people and places we visited; nevertheless, I am very thankful to have gained that kind of experience. Perhaps the most enriching part of the two weeks came in the form of exposure. We saw all the shapes and forms that engagement could manifest itself in, from working in international development, to the government, to the classroom. We all learned that there are countless ways to affect positive change within the community, and as leaders, we ought to follow our own path, find our niche, and excel.
June 4, 2013 by Erik Michel
To those reading this, my name is Erik Michel, but you probably already knew that because my name is already on this post. I’m a member of the Class of 2014 at W&M. Currently, I’m in DC as a New Media Fellow with the W&M DC Summer Institute. The Institute is run through the school’s Washington Office located near Dupont Circle. Before this summer, I’ve only been to two areas of the city: The National Mall and the zoo. But let me tell you, Dupont is a pretty swank place, and it’s right near the heart of the city. For two weeks I spent time in the classroom in Dupont and various site visits all around the city. Now, I’m a week and a half into a 10-week, full-time internship at the DC Shorts Film Festival.
The first two weeks of classes feel like ages ago, but many of the things we learned have stuck with me. Our teacher, Professor Ann Marie Stock, jam-packed our time together with awesome discussions, fun guest lecturers, and really cool site visits (National Geographic, Discovery Channel, C-SPAN, the Newseum, The Smithsonian Museums of American History and of the American Indian, just to name a few). I could tell you countless details about this time, but there’s not enough space here to cover it all. Overall, though, there were two things that I learned over this time. Firstly, don’t go to film school. I’m a Film Studies Major (technically, it doesn’t exist, but I like to pretend it does), so film school seems like the next logical step. But I met quite a few people out in the working world who do film-type things, and the ones that did go to film school even said that it’s not really worth the money you put into it. I’m sure that most people reading this don’t care about the importance, or lack thereof, of film school, but the next thing I say should appeal to anyone reading this.
From National Geographic to the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting (Look it up. It’s pretty cool), one message resonated throughout the week: it is better to do something you love than to get payed for something you don’t enjoy. Sure, it’s a simple message, but it comes from the heart (Arthur reference. I couldn’t help myself.). Some people I know are stuck doing something they think will make them successful and rich, but is a very boring job. Others are stuck doing something they hate for very little money, but I’m sure each one would say the same thing. So have fun with what you’re doing in life. And don’t be dead-set on doing one thing either. Keep your options open.
After the class ended, I said goodbye to Dupont Circle (though I still visit sometimes), and hello to Penn Quarter, where the DC Shorts Office is, just a few blocks East of the White House. The office is small compared to most of my other fellows (except for my office mate and fellow New Media fellow Gina), comfortably fitting only about 6 people, but thankfully, the other people who work there are nice. My supervisor, festival director Jon Gann, has been in the DC area for years, running the festival as it is going into its 10th year. And as things are starting to come together, things are starting to get stressful, but I’m excited for the rest of the summer.
Anyway, I’m sure you’re tired of reading this. It’s mostly a jumble of words. I’ll write more often and not try and squeeze 3.5 weeks into one blog post. Erik out.