USC Price goes to Washington for a Career Trek

November 12, 2018
D.C. Trek students

MPA, MPL, MPP and IPPAM students on the Career Trek in Washington

By Cristy Lytal

One face-to-face introduction is worth 1,000 job applications — and this quickly became clear to the students from the USC Price School of Public Policy who attended this year’s Career Trek in Washington, D.C.

“Most of our alumni were pretty honest about what it takes to get a job in D.C.,” said Valerie Savior, director of the USC Price Office of Career Services. “One of them spent a year on his friend’s couch just to have a D.C. address, to show that he’s really committed and wants to stay in their area and get a job.”

Career Services partnered with the USC Price Office of Development and External Relations — and the school’s generous donors — to enable 12 students to gain exposure to careers in the capital free of cost.

The students hailed from the master’s programs in Public Administration (MPA), Planning (MPL), Public Policy (MPP) and International Public Policy and Management (IPPAM).

“These students connected in an intimate, informal setting with representatives from D.C. organizations and were able to ask really thoughtful questions,” said Seta Kenady, associate director of employer relations at USC Price.

A Broad Sampling

During the whirlwind three-day Trek, the students gained valuable exposure to the public, private and nonprofit sectors, inspiring them to consider new career possibilities.

“One of the great things about the Trek is they took us to a lot of different types of employers,” said MPP student Timothy J. Medeiros, “and we got a good taste of everything.”

The students kicked off their trip with a visit to the Center for American Progress (CAP). Their host was MPP alumnus Kevin DeGood, CAP’s director of infrastructure policy.

DC Trek students with Dean Jack Knott

The Career Trek included a talk featuring Dean Jack Knott (second row, fourth from right).

“Talking about the way that their think tank actually works was really valuable,” said Markie Anderle, who is pursuing her MPL at USC Price. “We tend to think of think tanks as people who are just turning out research reports. But CAP has a very different way of advocating for issues, and they actually do go up to the Hill and talk to people about what they think is important. It’s something I’m really interested in doing, so that was pretty illuminating for me.”

At the Trust for America’s Health, the students met CEO John Auerbach, as well as External Relations and Outreach Manager Tim Hughes, an undergraduate alumnus of USC Price.

“This was one of the sites that we visited that I was really excited for,” said Meseret Alemu, who is pursuing both MPL and Master of Public Health degrees. “They use current evidence-based research to promote health policies. And they have internships. I would love to do an internship in D.C.”

At the United States Capitol, the students enjoyed a guided tour and a visit to the Office of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. As a legislative aide to the senator, MPL alumna Kristine O’Brien hosted the students.

“The most useful things were just getting to see what career paths have been for some of those people, and then being able to have exposure to a wider range of career interests within the D.C. area in the federal government space or adjacent to the federal government space,” said Anderle, who previously worked in D.C. in the public policy group of the law firm K&L Gates.

In addition to experiencing the Capitol, the students toured the East Wing of the White House, and took a guided nighttime tour of the monuments with USC alumnus Sam Dorn, who is press assistant and digital director at the U.S. House of Representatives.

The students also gained exposure to D.C. careers in the private sector during a visit to Hyundai Motor Company. Their host, MPA alumnus David Kim, serves as the company’s vice president of government affairs.

“David Kim had just come back from South Korea the night before, but he knew all of the students,” Savior said. “He had read all their bios, and he was very versed about their backgrounds. The conversation was about leadership when your parent company is a foreign entity, the trade wars, new products, technology disruption, the interface of the environment and transit, livable cities. The students really enjoyed listening to him talk.”

Hilton Robinson, senior manager of strategy and operations at Deloitte, earned his MBA from the USC Marshall School of Business. As host, he took the opportunity to introduce the students to his clients at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — also Trojan alumni — during a cocktail hour.

“Deloitte had a full three-hour site visit where we got to visit different arms, and then we had a mixer at the end,” Alemu said. “And so each site really went above and beyond to create an environment that was not only educational, but also immersive and comfortable so we were all able to ask our questions.”

Trojan Family Networking

The students also attended a student and alumni mixer at USC’s D.C. Office of Research Advancement. The event featured “Lessons in Social Innovation,” a “fireside chat” with USC Price faculty members Christine M. Beckman and David Sloane, and remarks by USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott.

“The alumni mixer on the first night was great,” said Medeiros, who previously worked on the Hill for Congressman David Jolly. “I was able to meet a lot of different people — from the Department of the Interior to Senate offices — so the Trojan network is pretty strong out there.”

Each student did several informational interviews with various USC Price alumni. To prepare students for these interviews, Career Services hosted a special training session prior to the D.C. Trek.

“I would think that they met at least 50 Trojans in two and a half days, between the mixer, informational interviews, five site visits and social cocktail hour,” Savior said.

In addition to connecting with alumni, the students valued the opportunity to bond with each other — forming a network that will extend well beyond graduation.

“I would say that getting the exposure to other Price students that weren’t necessarily in our own programs was also really valuable,” Anderle said. “A really big part of graduate school is being able to network with your peers, because those are going to be the people that you’re working with later down the line.”