Friday Adventures as TWC Intern

Friday Adventures as TWC Intern

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Stephen Hawking once wrote that “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” With the vast array of programming that The Washington Center offers, this is certainly a quote that most student interns experiencing Washington’s hectic pace for the first time, ought to keep in mind. However, as evidenced by the Academic Internship Program (AIP) events of July 14, students had no problem digesting an assortment of different topics on the educational menu.


Lobbying 101


The day’s first presentation was a primer on the intricacies of lobbying by James J. Hickey, a thirty-year veteran of D.C.’s political battles and now the Vice-President of Government Affairs at Day & Zimmerman. Well aware of the reputation of lobbyists outside of Washington—he began by saying, “I’m a real-life lobbyist, but you are safe!”—Hickey was nevertheless chock-full of advice and anecdotes for students who, like himself, “got the Potomac Bug.” Because his prime task is “to figure out what the latest mood of Congress is,” Hickey stressed the importance of staying well-informed. He said that in a typical ten to 12-hour workday, he is reading for five or six of them. By reading as much as possible (the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Politico, etc.), he is able to tease out the 10% to 20% of material that is helpful in advancing his lobbying priorities. After all, the turnover of staff on Capitol Hill is so rapid, it becomes imperative for someone to have institutional knowledge. Therefore, a smart lobbyist is the one who realizes the void is there to be filled.


James Hickey speaks to TWC students


Furthermore, Hickey, touching upon George Schultz’s well-known quote “Trust is the coin of the realm,” imparted a valuable lesson: one’s reputation is an invaluable asset. The Capitol Hill staffer who indulges in duplicity and double-dealing is unlikely to retrieve his prior status. Suggestions to this effect made it into Hickey’s “Ten Commandments for Success” -- useful nuggets such as “Thou Shall Never Treat Second Tier as Second Class” and “Thou Shall Keep Thine Word.” Overall, Hickey’s personable and entertaining talk was received warmly; he even lingered afterwards to take individual questions from politically minded students.


Criminal Justice Panel


Next was a panel discussion of six men and women who work in criminal justice-related fields: Patrick Glover and Cory Hudson of the F.B.I., Erin Fitzpatrick of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Amy Costanzo of the Metropolitan Police Department, Aleksandra Pinkhasova of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, and Michelle Bonner of the D.C. Corrections Information Council. They were able to offer their insights, much of which focused on the importance of language. All agreed that knowledge of a critical language is a way to fast-track one’s prospects for employment in a criminal justice field – Mandarin, Dari and Farsi were cited as examples. Additionally, fluent writing was considered invaluable. As Bonner stated, “If you don’t know how to write, people aren’t even going to look at your application.”


TWC students attending their Friday programming


The panelists placed a great deal of emphasis on people-to-people relationships, and stressed the importance of choosing a mentor. “The opportunities are always there to learn from the best,” Hudson interjected. Regarding Washington’s favorite pastime of networking, Pinkhasova was equally rational: “The best way to network is to find commonalities first,” meaning that pet-owners will be more inclined toward fellow pet-owners, history majors toward fellow history majors, and so on. After the discussion ended, the six professionals mingled with the students, discussing their concerns over pizza and soda.


National Geographic Tour


TWC students visit National Geographic


Finally, students who have taken an active interest in media and communications were invited to tour the offices of the National Geographic Channel (NatGeo). Following the tour of the office suite, the group of 20 students had the opportunity to sit down in NatGeo’s boardroom for a meeting with some of the channel’s management team who are tasked with developing the ideas that eventually make it to the air. Breaking down the basic structure of the company, Monica Welsh-Loveman, the Senior Development Coordinator, spoke about her desire to bring NatGeo in line “less with the History and Discovery Channels and more in line with Showtime and Netflix.” To that end, most of the channel’s programming does not stray too far from “the benchstools we sit on: science, adventure, and exploration,” as Welsh-Loveman put it.


In terms of television content, Welsh-Loveman and her team attempts to check five boxes: “big science” themes (like NatGeo’s ongoing miniseries Mars), point-of-view documentary series about “anything that can get us into the worlds people don’t usually see” featuring a well-known figure, natural history (which are usually long and expensive and therefore infrequent), feature documentaries that are typically prominent at the Emmy Awards and film festivals, and live events.


TWC students viewing a presentation at National Geographic


Like her fellow Washingtonians in the worlds of lobbying and criminal justice, Welsh-Loveman and her colleagues were quick to share important lessons they had learned in their careers. For those considering media as a profession, Welsh-Loveman reminded them that grunt work at the beginning is inevitable given its lack of glamour. Her advice in this regard was simple: “Don’t be ‘precious.’ Be proactive!” And in a return to the theme of mentorship, one of her subordinates noted that asking probing questions is always recommended, “because people are willing to help more often than you initially think.”

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