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D.C. Trip Yields New Insights for Liberal Arts Students

January 19, 2018
In November, 13 students from Merrimack’s School of Liberal Arts along with Interim Dean Sean Condon and Assistant Professor of Political Science Kevin McGravey, traveled to Washington, D.C., for a two-day experiential learning trip.

The trip, co-sponsored by the College and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, included visits to three alumni worksites, a networking reception with alumni and parents and a private tour of the Capitol Building.

“One important goal of the trip was to help our students become more aware of the great variety of career paths that are possible with a liberal arts degree from Merrimack,” said Condon.    

The group’s first stop was Public Opinion Strategies, a leading public opinion research firm specializing in political, public affairs, public policy and corporate positioning research, located in Alexandria, VA. There they met alumni hosts Dara Conroy ’95, managing partner at Capital HR Advisors and director, human resources and administration at Public Opinion Strategies and Matt Bugbee ’97, partner at Bugbee Consulting, LLC. Conroy is a human resources expert who consults on corporate strategy, recruiting, compensation and performance management training among others. Bugbee’s expertise is project management and he runs a management consulting firm that supports government agencies.

Conroy and Bugbee discussed the qualities they look for in potential employees and agreed that candidates with strong communication and analytical skills were preferred. “The confidence Merrimack instilled in me as a student: that you can achieve anything if you work hard, has been proven true,” said Dara Conroy. “The same work ethic and core values instilled in me over 20 years ago were seen in the students who were visiting in D.C. It makes me proud to be an alumna of Merrimack,” said Conroy, who hopes to host this type of experiential visit annually.

That evening students and faculty headed to The Dupont Circle Hotel and met with alumni from the Classes 1967 – 2013 and parents to network and share their favorite Merrimack stories. Students made new connections, shared their future career aspirations and learned more about what it’s like to live and work in the D. C. area. For alumnus Bugbee, the trip was a unique way to connect with students. “The students were engaging, asking great questions, and listening intently to the stories and experiences that we spoke about earlier today,” he said. “Their questions showed that they had a real interest in what alumni from Merrimack did after graduating, and how we made certain decisions about our careers.”

Senior Samuel Royston, a STEM education and communications major, enjoyed the chance to mix and mingle at the reception. “It gave me the chance to polish my networking skills and practice the kinds of introductions I’ll need in the ‘real world.’” Allison Hart ’18, a political science and business administration major, also found the trip enlightening. “It opened my eyes to new potential career paths I may not have thought to go down before,” she said.

The next day, students and faculty visited The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, with alumni host Stacey Dion ’98. Dion is The Carlyle Group’s first registered lobbyist for government relations and formerly served as vice president of Corporate Public Policy for The Boeing Company. Dion offered an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to work as a policy lobbyist, strategically interfacing with government organizations on corporate issues. Several students expressed a desire to go to law school and Dion discussed the importance of pondering all options as graduate school is a very personal decision.

Phil McGovern ’86 hosted the final site visit for the group in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. McGovern is an attorney who was wrapping up his last day of service as Senior Foreign Policy and National Security Adviser to United States Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA). He has also served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was a Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity, and an immediate past Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy. 

McGovern described how he worked for Senator (then Congressmen) Markey in his early twenties, and how his career took him from serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army to working as a Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General. He encouraged the students, “to be open to any possibilities that may present themselves and to not become pigeonholed by thinking you can only work within your major.”

“Merrimack is wise to invest in sending liberal arts students to Washington for discussions with experts working on federal policy in Congress, the executive and judicial branches, and the private sector,” he said. McGovern also arranged for the group to take the underground subway from the Dirksen Senate Office Building to the Capitol Building for a tour led by two Senate interns.

For Rachel Moss ’19, a political science and international studies major, the trip to the Capitol was eye opening. “People from such diverse backgrounds migrate to D.C. because of the immense amount of opportunities available,” said Moss. “Also, D.C. is a lot like Boston in the sense that it’s a very tight-knit community when it comes to networking.”

“The trip definitely impacted my career prep,” said Jake Maloof ’19, a political science and international studies major. “I’ll be trying my best to diversify my skillset, and opportunities as a result of this trip,” he said. “I will also try to pivot myself towards new career opportunities I wasn’t aware of before this trip.”

From Condon’s perspective, the experience was educational and far reaching in its impact, “Our current students were also able to add to their social capital by connecting with successful alumni who are willing to share their time, perspective, expertise and network connections,” he said.

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  • School of Liberal Arts faculty and students pose for photo during trip to Washington, D.C.
    School of Liberal Arts faculty and students pose for photo during trip to Washington, D.C.

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