During the University of Virginia’s spring break, 50 students gathered in Washington, D.C. to visit some of the city’s top employers, moving from the marbled corridors of the United States Senate to the bustling newsrooms of Atlantic Media or NPR.
The March 11 career trek, led by UVA’s Career Center, included visits to 15 employers. UVA’s career counselors planned the trip to introduce students to companies and industries that typically hire later in the spring semester and to educate them about the transition to the Washington area. It drew students from four of UVA’s six career communities: government and law; public service; creative arts, media and design; and engineering, science and technology. The groups are designed to link students, employers and alumni interested in a particular field.
“We wanted to connect students to employers, showcase targeted industry areas and identify available and potential jobs and internships,” said Dillon Kuhn, assistant director for employer relations and career communities.
Some students were just beginning career research, while others were focused on specific opportunities. Peter Hawes, a first-year graduate student in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, wanted to learn more about nongovernmental organizations like InterAction, an alliance of 180-plus humanitarian organizations around the world, and the International Rescue Committee, which provides aid to refugees in more than 40 countries.
Hawes, who hopes to work with humanitarian policy and international crisis response, is in the process of applying for internships at these and other similar organizations. During the trip, he met the internship coordinator at the International Rescue Committee, along with several other employees from both companies.
“I signed up for the trip kind of at the last minute, and I am so glad I did,” he said. “I gained better perspective on the practical elements of what each company’s work is actually about. It was also very cool to see the office culture, meet different people and see the physical space.”
Employers were selected to represent four broad interests: politics and government relations; sustainability; media and public relations; and humanitarian aid. Students met with staff working in the Senate and other large government offices, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and toured the American Red Cross National Headquarters.
They also visited nonprofit employers like Rare, an environmental group leading conservation efforts around the world, and think tanks like the Brookings Institution, one of the top research organizations in the world. Students interested in media and creative arts visited major national media outlets, including NPR, Atlantic Media and Vox Media, along with Ogilvy Public Relations, one of the top 10 communications firms worldwide.
Many of these organizations employ UVA alumni, who met with students to tell them about daily life on the job and joined them for a reception concluding the day’s events.
“Getting to hear directly from alumni and other people who worked at the organization was wonderful,” Dora Illei, a fourth-year student majoring in global development studies, wrote in an email. “Each person on the panel of each organization shared really interesting anecdotes about their time at their organization and about how they ended up there.”
Like Hawes, Illei went into the trip knowing that she wanted to pursue public service or humanitarian work after graduation.
“I am glad to have a few contacts in this field so I can easily reach out if I have any questions,” she wrote. “Getting to speak to people who work at these organizations was a fantastic networking opportunity.”
Given the success of the Washington trip, Kuhn said the Career Center is already working on ideas for expanding the program to different cities.
“We hope to do many more treks like this in the future,” he said. “They give students a great firsthand experience as we work to build new relationships with employers and alumni across the country.”