In the Spotlight
Eyes on the Prize: Alumni Focus on Public Service
by Michelle Simmons
November 24, 2009
In November, the Career Center took a group of Dickinson students to Washington, D.C., to meet with alumni and parents working in the federal government. This trip is just one of Dickinson many ties to our nation's capitol.
Dickinson is known for its active, hands-on approach to education, and our partnership with The Washington Center (TWC) in the nation’s capital is a perfect example.
According to Jim Hoefler, professor of political science and policy studies, the center’s program gives students access to thousands of potential employers and thoroughly prepares them for a career in government or politics. The center has a three-pronged approach to the semester-long internship: fulltime placement at the internship site; independent study with a faculty member; and 20 hours of community service or civic engagement. “Students become an organic part of the office,” he says. “They’re deeply immersed in everything the office does.”
‘Good Job Karma’
Eleanor “Nell” Etheredge ’09, who majored in law & policy, is a self-described policy geek. “I’ve wanted to be in Washington, D.C., since I was about 4 years old,” she says. With that in mind, she decided to intern her junior year through TWC.
Etheredge’s internship with the Federal Relations Office for Massachusetts Gov. Duvall Patrick followed that model. And when she began her job search her senior year, she had a plethora of contacts.
“I drove to D.C. regularly, used Dickinson Works and contacted people from the internship,” she recalls. “I [scheduled] informational interviews, applied for three jobs a week and built up good job karma.” Two days before graduation, she accepted a position as legislative policy analyst with the Council of State Governments, a nonpartisan association for state-government officials and agencies.
“My major gave me a lot of flexibility and helped me see how issues connect,” says Etheredge. “The ability to work on and debate tough issues really put me in a better position for the job.”
‘A Taste of Everything’
During Josh Swarz ’08’s semester at TWC, he worked for lobbying firm Fleishman Hillard in government relations. “I attended committee meetings on [Capitol Hill], took notes and reported back to my boss,” he says. He credits his rigorous political-science major with teaching him how to distill a lot of information into manageable bits.
From a sophomore-year internship with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter to a stint with the British Parliament as a junior, then the U.S. Embassy in France during his senior year, Swarz “got a taste of everything,” he says. “By the time I graduated, I was able to figure out what I enjoyed the most and make an educated decision about where I wanted to work."
Swarz now is chief legislative aide to Florida state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo. He’s helped Abruzzo pass some key legislation, including a rebate to consumers who purchase Energy Star equipment and funding for students interested in studying the hospitality industry.
A Rising Star
Luke Bernstein ’01 took a somewhat circuitous route to his current position as executive director of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. He studied political science and policy management at Dickinson, but after an internship with Morgan Stanley, his focus turned to finance. “I was excited by the Wall Street way of life,” he says of his budding career. “When 9/11 happened, I was fortunate to make it out alive,” he recalls. “I went through a lot of self-reflection after that.”
Bernstein walked away from finance and began working for then-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. He was tapped to serve as coalitions director for the Bush/Cheney campaign and in 2006 was recruited to serve in the White House. Bernstein chose to stay in Pennsylvania instead. In 2008, he was named by Politics magazine as one of the top 25 rising stars in the country.
A political-science or policy-related major isn’t the only path to a government or political position, however. Alaina Duggan ’05, who majored in international studies, is state and local coordinator in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security.
“Our office provides the secretary [of Homeland Security] with a high-level picture of what is going on in the states, territories and tribes when issues arise,” she explains. “We’re [also] advocates for state, local and tribal entities within the department, and help them navigate and solve any challenges or questions they face.”
She adds, “Dickinson has been a huge part of my success. The demanding classes and the ability to manage my time between school work, athletics, study abroad and other activities … helped me build a strong work ethic and dedication. I truly enjoy what I’m doing and see the positive impact that I have.”
Paying it Forward
As a way of giving back, Duggan recently co-hosted a Nov. 17 trip coordinated by Dickinson’s Career Center to Washington, D.C. for students to meet with alumni and parents working for the federal government. In addition to the Department of Homeland Security, 25 students had the choice of visiting the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Department of Defense at the Pentagon, the U.S Courthouse for the District of Columbia and the Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service.
Etheredge, who attended the evening reception at the French embassy that day, recalls talking with her sorority sisters about which congressional committee she wanted to work on. “In these times, any position you can get working on an issue—you’ll get great experience,” she says. “If you work hard enough, you’ll get there.”
Eleanor “Nell” Etheredge ’09 is a legislative policy analyst with the Council of State Governments, a nonpartisan association for state-government officials and agencies. Josh Swarz '08 is chief legislative aide to Florida state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo. Luke Bernstein ’01 is executive director of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. Alaina Duggan ’05 is state and local coordinator in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security.