The Honors Program Builds Career Connections in D.C.
Students from the University Honors Program discuss how traveling to Washington, D.C., expanded their career horizons.
This fall, the University Honors Program (UHP) sent 14 students to Washington, D.C., to participate in what the Honors Program refers to as one of its Career Connections trips.
Career Connections trips are experiences designed to take Honors students to major national hubs that NC State alumni tend to gravitate to for work or graduate school after graduation, based on their professional fields.
Career Connections participants have the opportunity to get to know the destination city, gain valuable networking experience with local alumni and professionals, and build community through conversations with their peers about what’s next for them after college.
Fall Break 2023 was the Honors Program’s return to Washington D.C., having taken Career Connections students there in the Fall of 2021, which was followed by another Career Connections trip to Atlanta in the Spring of 2022.
The itinerary for the Fall Break 2023 Career Connections trip to Washington DC included a conversation with Honors Program Class of 2023 alumna Audrey Lucas, who is currently working for NC Senator Ted Budd, a UHP alumni networking event hosted at the Kennedy Center, a tour of the White House, a night time walking tour of the Washington Mall monuments, a kayak paddle on the Potomac River, a meet-up with members of The George Washington University’s Honors Program and lunch with Katie Hendrickson, Deputy Chief of Staff at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for the Executive Office of the President.
Another Alumni event consisted of a brunch with Class of 2023 alumnus Jason Turcios, who is currently a Public Policy Fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Here, students were able to absorb Turcios’ passion for political science and his championing of positive change.
After traveling to D.C., students returned to Raleigh energized. This was certainly the case for Faisa Aden, who shared, “I think the most I got out of (the trip) was inspiration. Speaking to all the alumni and how they’ve been able to pursue their passions, fail a bunch of times, yet still have a zest for life was really encouraging.”
Honors & Scholars Program and NC State alumni were critical sources of inspiration for the traveling UHP students, particularly for Zachery Eddinger, who said, “I thought this trip was great! I learned not only about D.C. and its culture but also received guidance from NC State alumni concerning getting an internship or job opportunity in D.C.”
Jacob Smith found the trip to be transformative for his plans, saying, “Learning about networking and work culture in America… was an eye-opening experience, and meeting many different Capitol Hill alumni helped me to further solidify my plan for the future.“
Many UHP students found that this experience showed them the strength of NC State’s network, with Aden stating, “I learned about a few really cool opportunities, and also that if I wanted to enter or work in certain sects of either the government or really anywhere, all I have to do is reach out!”
While in D.C., students enjoyed exploring the many amenities available in the Capital. Joseph Thomas shared that visiting the museums and kayaking on the Potomac were events that stood out in particular to him as excellent features of living and working around D.C.
When asked what went well on his trip, Eddinger was certainly appreciative of the many wonders in D.C., saying, “The amount of information we learned about D.C., alongside the amount of iconic D.C. places we got to visit.”
Jacob Smith volunteered that he appreciated the support of all the different alumni they got to meet up with while in town, and that they represented such a diverse set of academic studies and professional fields so well.
Career Connections trips are designed by Honors Program staff to provide participating students with a variety of experiential and educational learning opportunities to develop their career readiness skills. In preparation for the D.C. trip, students were asked to read an assigned text prior to departure, with a scheduled book discussion while in town together.
Students could choose between “The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work,” by Simone Stolzoff and “Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams,” by Barbara Sher.
Ashwin Prasad, a UHP employee and student trip leader, helped to facilitate one of the assigned read discussions on the trip.
Prasad shared that, “As a student leader, I really enjoyed facilitating a discussion with like-minded NC State Honors students to hear perspectives about how they related to the book, what their takeaways were, and some of their life experiences they could relate in this book to.”
Of the book that he himself chose to read and facilitate the discussion for, Prasad had this to say: “The book was a perfect telling tale of how I would describe myself: a ‘scanner,’ someone who doesn’t zero in on a single interest but has multiple and can’t help but explore it all. I enjoyed how relevant this was in my life as I realized I was not just a scanner but one of many in society. The book really helped me learn how to manage all my interests and to do everything I love.”
For highly motivated and achievement-oriented Honors students, like Joseph Thomas, having the opportunity to collaboratively discuss things like work-life balance, pursuing individual personal and professional interests, and ways to stay focused without stressing out, can be extremely beneficial. He hared that “[the discussion] was particularly useful as a freshman, hearing from students who already have a couple of years of experience dealing with college courses and programs.”
About the Career Connections trip in general, Thomas summarized the group’s sentiment well: “It was great to meet with fellow students from a variety of different walks of life and stages of education and learn more about what the program has in store and what to think about when I look to the future.”