Destination D.C. introduces Saint Michael’s students to global careers

March 7, 2024
Cat Cutillo
Social Media and Community Content Specialist

Sixteen Saint Michael’s students visited Washington, D.C., last week to explore careers in government and policy and learn from alumni about their own career paths.

The students were joined by Boucher Career Education Center team members Ingrid Peterson and Joe Speidel, Center for Global Engagement Director Jeffrey Ayres, and Institutional Advancement Admission and Development Officer Annie Rosello ’94. They met with staff at the Supreme Court, State Department, officers of Senators Peter Welch and Bernie Sanders as well as alumni Major General Greg Gagnon ’94, Erica Chabot Dempsey ’02, and Chelsea Dixon ’13.

This is the second year in a row that there has been cross-campus collaboration to take students on this four-day excursion, which was funded from an appropriation through the U.S. Department of Education from Senator Leahy.

Ayres said the trip is important because it gives students the opportunity to hear from and network with Saint Michael’s alumni who have pursued public policy and internationally oriented careers — career paths that other students on the trip may also be interested in pursuing after graduation.

Peterson said one of the best outcomes was watching the students absorb that “the career path is rarely linear” and that there are “multiple right ways to get to the end point.”

“We wanted to provide some high impact opportunities for our students to be able to see people who used to sit in the same seats in the same classrooms and who lived in the same rooms in the same residence halls doing amazing things,” Peterson said. “To give the students an opportunity to see themselves in the future.”

Senior Brigid Christiano ’24 went on the trip to help consider the future career direction she might take. Christiano is a double major in International Relations and Spanish and a double minor in Economics and Global Studies.

“My future is pretty open-ended with no set path but multiple avenues that I have the ability to take,” Christiano said. “It’s all about what I call ‘swimming with the flow.’ I have control over my motions and pace, but I am also letting life guide me a little bit.”

Christiano said the trip helped settle some “post-grad nerves” to see so many Saint Michael’s alums and hear their success stories.

Ayres said specifically meeting with alumni to hear about their career trajectories in the D.C. area as well as their tips and insights into getting started was especially impactful. Major General Gagnon ‘94 currently works for the U.S. Space Force, Chabot Dempsey ’02 previously worked for Senator Leahy and now works as a consultant, and Dixon ’13 is an attorney for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ayres noted that additional meetings with staff for both Senators Sanders and Welch were equally valuable.

“These individuals not only discussed current foreign policy challenges facing the United States but gave personal insights into how to network and get one’s foot in the door on Capitol Hill,” Ayres said.

The group also attended an alumnus social with eighteen alums.

“We literally had to drag a student out of there because it was time,” Peterson said. “He was talking to one of the alums and was in a deep conversation about career paths.”

Senior Ben Mogensen ’24 said the most impactful part of the trip for him was practicing his networking skills in a professional environment.

“Introducing yourself to someone with a smile on your face and politely asking ‘how do I get your job?’ will rarely lead to a dull conversation,” Mogensen said. He is an Environmental Science major and Chemistry minor.

Mogensen said after speaking to federal employees, he feels more confident that he wants to pursue a career in foreign relations. He said in ten years, he’d like to be working internationally and thinks a position with the U.S. Department of State would allow him to pursue “a very meaningful experience.”

In their downtime, the students went sightseeing. For several, it was the first time they had been to Washington, D.C. Peterson said one happy coincidence was many of the students participating this year were interested in applying to law school, and there were a number of alums they met with who were lawyers.

Before they entered the library for the Supreme Court, one student warned Peterson, “if we get down there and I pass out, it’s because I’m so overwhelmed with this amazing opportunity,” Peterson recalled.

The students ranged in age from first-years to seniors and were studying a wide range of majors. They had to apply for the opportunity.

“I think there’s just so much depth as well as breadth to what is happening on this trip,” Peterson said.

“I think this opportunity gave me more drive and confidence to go forward,” Christiano said. “I came out of these few days with an increased conviction. No matter what, I am going to end up where I need and want to be in life because I am putting in the work to do it.”

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