The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Students Explore Career Options on Trip to DC

SPP students with US Rep Jim McGovern

Students met with policy professionals at government agencies and nonprofit organizations, spent a morning with US Rep. Jim McGovern, and connected with alumni working in the field during the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy’s recent career exploration and networking trip to Washington, DC.

The annual trip, in conjunction with SPP’s professional development seminar, is an opportunity for students to make connections and learn about the many career paths open to them with a degree in public policy. “Meeting with alumni is an especially fun part of the trip,” said Satu Zoller, SPP’s associate director. “It’s a great way for students to envision where their careers might take them, and our alums are so generous with their time and advice.”

The trip included nine meetings over three days, with stops at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where students learned about the organization’s work from SPP alumnae Vanessa Megaw ’13 and Laura Molyneaux ’13; the Environmental Protection Agency, where they connected with Caitlin Gould ’09 (middle photo); and the US Government Accountability Office, for a meeting with Holly Sasso ’05 and Beth Leibinger ’18 (bottom photo).

The students also met with Alfonso Hidalgo ’19, to learn about his work as a content strategist with the communications firm Seven Letter, and had lunch with Michael Duffy ’87, who talked about his career in federal civil service and consulting. Joanna Springer, SPP ’14, and Greg McDonald, who received his undergrad degree from UMass, hosted the students at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, while Bayliss Fiddiman, also a UMass alumna, hosted the group at the Center for American Progress, where she is a senior policy analyst. Zane Farr, SPP ’12, met with students to talk about his work as a strategic research associate at the Communications Workers of America.

On the last day of the trip, students met with McGovern, whose Second Congressional District includes Amherst (top photo). “With leaders like these, America’s future is bright!” McGovern posted on social media after the meeting.

“[The trip] gave me a better sense of the range of government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations in DC,” said Whitley Plummer, a student in SPP’s dual Master of Public Policy and Administration/Master of Business Administration program. She also appreciated the opportunity to learn about the work of organizations she didn’t know much about before, such as the Government Accountability Office and RTI International, and the openness of the alumni to connect with students, she said.

The trip also included an evening reception with Washington-area alumni, a tour of the US Capitol, and visits to the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

About the School of Public Policy: Established in 2016, the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy prepares students for leadership in public service. The program’s focuses include social change and public policy related to science and technology.

Contact: Maureen Turner, communications manager, School of Public Policy

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