Fall 2013 Commencement Ceremony

Fall 2013 Commencement Ceremony

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Maha Neouchy
December 13, 2013

On Monday, December 9th, The Washington Center (TWC) welcomed nearly 400 new alumni to its global network of over 50,000. The Fall 2013 Commencement ceremony, which took place at the Residential and Academic Facility at NoMa, featured inspiring speeches from a TWC alumna and three fall 2013 students, as well as a ceremony for pillar awardees in the areas of academic and professional achievement, leadership and civic engagement.

 

Alumna Inspires Fall 2013 Interns

Kristen Soltis Anderson ’05 is currently the Vice President of The Winston Group, a Washington, D.C.-based opinion research and political communications firm. Since joining in 2005, Anderson has conducted extensive research on public opinion, on topics from the youth vote to education reform. In 2013 alone, she was named one of Marie Claire's "New Guard" of fifty rising female leaders, Campaign and Elections "The Influencers 50," and National Journal Magazine's "25 Most Influential Women Under 35 in Washington."

 

Anderson credits her experience here as helping her land her first job, telling students "I was placed at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which was in the same building as the Republican National Convention (RNC). From the moment I started my internship, every day was a new, incredible adventure."

 

Her TWC internship site, NRCC, circulated her resume until it was handed off  to the Winston Group, where she was hired to answer phones over the summer. They later offered her a guaranteed position when she graduated. Today, Anderson is Vice President of the firm, appearing on shows like the O'Reilly Factor, and travelling the world to discuss policy legislation.

 

Anderson also talked about the advice that she received from various mentors throughout her professional journey. She learned important lessons like "knowledge is currency in this town, make sure you're always learning" and "don't say anything dumb because you never know when a reporter is in earshot."

 

She left the graduating class of fall 2013 with these parting words and advice: "Never think that a job opportunity is beneath you. In every task, whether data entry or answering phones, you have the opportunity to absorb information around you. Decide what you want to be known for and pursue that relentlessly. Resumes are becoming less and less important and your network and your brand are becoming more important. Find what makes you different and focus on opportunities. Define your goal and work every day in trying to achieve it."

 

Fall 2013 Commencement Speakers

 

The first student commencement speaker was Jasmine Henderson from San Diego State University, who interned with the Jack Evans Campaign this fall. She is the youngest of five children and the first of her siblings to go to college. Throughout her time with TWC, Henderson has been recognized for her inquisitiveness and positive outlook. Before coming to this program, Jasmine thought she would be graduating and applying to go to law school. But her internship threw her an unexpected curve ball; during the first day of her internship with Jack Evans' campaign for mayor, she realized her love for campaign work. It both excited and scared her because she had to redefine her career path. By the end of her experience, her expectation of just learning more about the nation's capital, evolved into a completely new outlook and perspective that she was able to gain with the help of her peers. She left her fellow interns with these words: "If life closes one door, you find another exit. And if that door is locked, you climb through the window. There is no straight line and there is no roadmap to reach it…it's up to each and every one of us to clear our own path and find our way through it."

 

Blue Knox, a student at the University of Alberta and intern with Leadership Africa-USA, took full advantage of the opportunities presented during her time in D.C. Not only did she represent her fellow students on October 7th, 2013 when she spoke to TWC's Board of Directors about her experience, but she was also the first student chosen in TWC's history to moderate a Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series. Addressing her fellow fall 2013 interns in the crowd, she spoke about being "challenged and inspired by professors, supervisors, and community leaders, but where I think we found the greatest inspiration, is from each other…I believe that our internships and academic seminars would have been hollow experiences without one another. To TWC, to our advisors and our support network who have worked so hard to make this experience rich, thank you. To our professors who shared their experiences and lessons with us, thank you. To each and everyone one of the people in this room for coming here to Washington D.C. from around the world with open minds, open hearts, and a willingness to share a piece of yourself, your experience, your perspective with one another, thank you."

 

Dennis Medina, a student at Montclair State University and intern at Chwat & Company, shared his story of inspiration and hope. Medina's mother left the Dominican Republic and came to this country to provide her son with opportunities that he would not be exposed to back in her home country. Like so many of the immigrants who come to America with the hope that this country will provide more for their children, he told students: "My mother is a hero to me. Her sacrifice is what fuels me. Her inspiration is what drives my aspirations." Medina discussed some of the highlights of his TWC experience: "Through my civic engagement program, I learned how to give back without expecting anything in return. I learned how powerful the smiles of grateful children could be, and how our nation’s teachers deserve all the praise our voices can manage. Through my internship, I learned that lobbying doesn’t have to be a dirty word, but rather that it can represent a life dedicated to fighting for a cause you are passionate about. I learned how to tie a bow tie, and walk confidently shoulder to shoulder in a city of giants. I learned how to write an amendment. Imagine that. This has truly been a surreal journey for me."

 

Student Pillar Awardees

 

Nick Le

Science, Technology and Society Program

Academic and Professional Achievement Pillar Awardee

 

Eun Hea (Grace) Kim

Prudential Global Citizens Program

Leadership Pillar Awardee

 

Josie Cambareri & Brianna Fulp

Law and Criminal Justice Program

Civic Engagement Pillar Awardees

 

 

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