School of International Affairs takes D.C. career exposure trip

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Members of the Penn State School of International Affairs (SIA) community went on its annual career exposure trip to Washington, D.C., on Thursday, October 27, and Friday, October 28.

SIA students on the DC career trip in fall 2022
SIA students during the fall 2022 D.C. Career Exposure Trip. Credit: Penn State School of International Affairs

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Members of the Penn State School of International Affairs (SIA) community went on its annual career exposure trip to Washington, D.C., on Thursday, October 27, and Friday, October 28. Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, interim director of the School of International Affairs and associate professor of international affairs, and Grant Littke, director of career services at SIA, led forty first and second-year students on the trip that provided a unique opportunity to network with potential employers, speak with alumni, and see the historic sites in the nation’s capital.

“The demand for a Master of International Affairs degree is apparent when one looks at the opportunities that Washington, D.C., offers,” said Vice Admiral (Ret.) James W. Houck, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. “This kind of trip is an invaluable resource for students to gain new insight into the multiple directions they can take with their careers after graduation, and the necessary steps required to go in those directions.”

The trip included visits with government agencies and companies in the private sector, and discussion panels for students to ask questions and learn more about how they can apply their M.I.A. “The career exposure trip provides an opportunity for students to not only learn about the types of skills that employers find most important, but also expands students’ understanding of the wide variety of jobs available to people that earn a Master of International Affairs degree,” Ransom explained.

SIA students take notes during presentation.
SIA students take notes during a presentation.

Among employers visited were: D3 Systems, a data analysis firm that provides data-driven answers to clients’ research questions; CRDF Global, a non-profit focused on using science to reduce global threats and improve security, health, and the economy; the U.S. State Department; and the World Bank Group. The United Nations Information Center and the Wilson Center jointly hosted a panel focused on the threat of climate change and careers in this field and the State Department brought together a panel of experts in the management field of the Department and highlighted a variety of career paths available there. The panel was chaired by second-year SIA student Charles Ammon, building on his current Virtual Student Federal Service internship at State.

A highlight of the trip is always the SIA Alumni Reception. This year’s reception at Mission Dupont Circle hosted approximately 30 alumni and friends of the program. Current students had the opportunity to meet these alums and learn about the various professions they could pursue after graduation. The networking connections that come out of these receptions have been invaluable, both to past and current students, as they move forward in their professional development.

SIA alumni reception in D.C.
SIA students mingle with alumni during a reception in D.C.

First-year SIA student Vera Muzzio said, “The D.C. experience was rewarding and exciting. I was able to network a great amount and enjoy spending time with other first- and second-year SIA students. It was quite an important experience, considering it allowed me to gain pivotal insight into the different organizations and hiring processes. The experience also allowed me to learn valuable information and form great relationships.”

Justin Baker, a second-year SIA student with a concentration in intelligence and international security, said the Management Division at the U.S. State Department and the World Bank Group were his favorite part of the trip. “Seeing how much goes into the daily maintenance of the nation and then how much the U.S helps the world by donations and support really reaffirmed my drive to be a part of something that strives to provide something to the world,” said Baker.

SIA student Haneen Shat watches presentation.
SIA student Haneen Shat watches a presentation during the D.C. career trip.

The combination of networking, and learning about different ways to access internship experiences, was exciting for first-year student Emily Roberts. “It’s one of the most beneficial experiences I’ve had since being at Penn State,” said Roberts.

Roberts pointed out the benefit for international students to go on the career exposure trip. “A lot of foreign embassies employ local nationals, and a lot of them have bases in the home countries where our international students are from. So, even for job opportunities where normally you have to be a U.S. citizen, there are still opportunities for them to access those lines of work. It’s valuable for international students as well,” she said. International students also benefited greatly from learning about the breadth of opportunities at the World Bank Group, and across the family of United Nations agencies with offices in Washington.

“What we got out of this trip wouldn’t have been possible any other way,” said Will Bame, first-year student. He spoke about learning about virtual internship opportunities, and the benefits of meeting people in person. “I don’t think it would have gone as well as quickly as being there in person to make those face-to-face connections. I felt that was invaluable.” Bame was also able to connect in person with his alumni mentor.

“Students should definitely go on this trip. Be open to being surprised and exploring new possibilities,” Bame said.

SIA will take another career exposure trip in the spring 2023 semester to New York.