Browsed by
Month: October 2017

Getting Started in DC: A Beginner’s Guide

Getting Started in DC: A Beginner’s Guide

Working or interning in Washington, DC, may seem like a stretch goal for many students. But according to Dr. Yuval Levin, Vice President and Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington is an exceptionally open place for people who are willing to work hard. Dr. Levin spoke recently to a group of University of Dallas students about securing work and internships in the nation’s capital.

Dr. Yuval Levin

“The world of congressional staffers is quite young,” Levin said. “The typical congressional staff will consist of 7 or 8 people in their twenties who are each assigned a specific set of issues. They’re very involved in the work of legislation.” According to Levin, working on a congressional staff is the best way to learn how Washington really works. “Congress is driven by process,” he said. “Working on a congressional staff teaches you about powerful personalities and about the scheduling and tempo of legislation.”

Working for a congressional committee or for a senior member of a committee is another way to get solid policy experience. “The substantive policy work is done in committee,” he said. Many staffers working on these committees are very young as well. Levin recalled his own experience as a young staffer: “I remember sitting on the budget committee and negotiating health care issues and thinking, ‘Do they realize I’m 21?’”

Levin said that although Executive Branch staffers are generally more experienced than Hill staffers, there are many lower-level departmental positions that offer a good start for young staffers. He emphasized that a recent graduate’s willingness to work is the most important factor in securing work in Washington. “Don’t limit yourself to one office or one area of government. If you’re willing to be paid pretty poorly, there’s work out there,” he said. Outside of working on the Hill or in the Executive Branch, Levin said that the organizations that support the policy apparatus–think tanks, party committees, and PACs–are also great places for recent college graduates to gain experience that could lead to other positions.

Levin recommends that interns or recent grads think first about working as a congressional staffer. First, it’s the easiest way to get in, and, second, working on the Hill provides the kind of experience that students can use as leverage to get other positions. “You can’t pretend to understand how government works if you haven’t seen it first hand,” Levin said.

The first step to getting a job on the Hill is to contact your local congressional representatives. “Call the offices of your two state senators and your local congressional representative,” Levin said, “and offer yourself up to opening letters, doing research, whatever they need.” This approach can work whether you’re looking for an internship or a job after graduation. “DC has a low barrier to entry,” he said, “if you’re willing to do the work.”

For more information about internships and employment in Washington, DC, or anywhere else, contact the Office of Personal Career Development for an appointment.

Perseverance is more important than brilliance: Dr. Sherry Yennello from the Cyclotron Institute

Perseverance is more important than brilliance: Dr. Sherry Yennello from the Cyclotron Institute

Not that long ago, the only women’s restroom at Texas A&M’s Cyclotron Institute was in the administrative area, far from where the science was done. “There are more women now,” said Dr. Sherry Yennello, Chemistry Professor and Cyclotron Institute Bright Chair in Nuclear Science at Texas A&M University. “And I think more women have the mindset that they can be scientists. They know it’s possible.”

Dr. Sherry Yennello

Dr. Yennello spoke recently to a group of UD students following her lecture, “Stellar Secrets: Earth Bound Insights into Elements Through Heavy-ion Reactions.” Her visit was part of the Clare Booth Luce Speaker Series, a program designed to attract women into physical science, engineering, and mathematical areas and to support them once there.

Dr. Yennello told students that research experiences are invaluable on a number of levels. “You’ll learn what it’s like to really do research every day,” she said. “And you’ll learn how you function best, whether in a structured environment where a professor gives you explicit instructions, or in an environment like mine, where I give you the big picture, show you the resources, and you have to step up and ask questions.”

Dr. Yennello encouraged students to attend regional and national meetings of groups associated with their majors (like American Chemical Society and American Physical Society) in order to network with their peers. “Students that attend these meetings will tell you what their lives are really like at their REUs and give you a good feel for the way an institution or a department works.” She added that networking at these events creates relationships that can form the basis of not only lifelong scientific collaborations, but also true friendships. “Science is done in groups,” she said. “And you need networks of people to get it done.”

In describing which characteristics students need to be successful, Dr. Yennello emphasized perseverance above any other trait. “Not giving up far outweighs brilliance,” she said. According to Dr. Yennello, high achieving students often get frustrated when their experiments don’t go the way they think they will. “When I’m looking at potential students for REUs, I’m looking for someone who wants to learn, someone who wants to figure out how to overcome errors and mistakes and understands that there isn’t always a straight path to the answer,” she said. Dr. Yennello recommended that students use the personal statements and cover letters with their REU applications to talk about their resilience, curiosity and perseverance when they don’t get an answer on the first try.

Dr. Yennello closed by saying that conducting research is only part of the benefit of an REU: “The real questions are: did you learn something and did you meet people?”

For more information on applying for REUs or other internships, contact OPCD or your department chair.

Alumni Answers: Should I get an engineering license?

Alumni Answers: Should I get an engineering license?

Dear Michael,

Did you obtain engineering license, and if so, did you find it necessary? Did you join any engineering clubs? (Maurice)

Michael H. (BS Physics, 2015), Research Engineer at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories

The specific field of engineering you decide to pursue will play a significant role in determining whether professional licensure is necessary or even useful. I will admit up front that I am a fairly green professional, and that any more senior advisory panel member who says differently from me should probably be given more credence; but as I understand it, an engineering license is only required if you wish to be the “final authority” to sign and certify the design and plans for any project funded for the use of the public – buildings and bridges, for instance. For this reason, civil engineers are usually the ones who find it useful to hold an engineering license. (You can still work as a civil engineer without holding an engineering license, you just can’t be the final authority to sign off on any plans that fall into the “for public use/benefit” category. I do not completely understand the delineation for “public use,” but it is not just as simple as “will a lot of people use it.” I expect that further investigation beyond that which I can provide will be helpful here.)

I am in electrical engineering, and I do not hold a license nor do I anticipate pursuing one. It is true that an EE who works on, say, a city’s power supply grid would likely benefit from having a license, but my work is at the microchip scale and therefore does not fall within that scope.
So, the simplified answer is: if you are not a civil engineer and do not wish to work on city-scale projects, very likely will not find an engineering license to be useful. If you do become a civil engineer, you *may* need one, and the it would be worthwhile to consult a professional in that engineering sub-field specifically.

 

Cheers to you, your continuing education, and your success in the field of your chosen profession!
Vocations, Volunteer & Post-grad Fair:
Wednesday, October 11

Vocations, Volunteer & Post-grad Fair:
Wednesday, October 11

Are you looking for ways you can serve the local community? Would you like to intern or possibly work for a non-profit organization? To help you find meaningful volunteer and service work as well as internships at nonprofit organizations, the Office of Personal Career Development and UD Campus Ministry are sponsoring a Vocations, Volunteer & Post-Grad Fair on Wednesday, October 11, from 1:30-4:30pm on the University Mall. Dozens of service  and nonprofit organizations and religious orders will  have representatives on hand to talk about the opportunities they have available. For a complete list of organizations participating, click here.

You may be able to earn course credit for service work or an internship, depending on the kind of work you do and the number of of hours you work. Contact OPCD for more details or ask an OPCD staff member at the fair.

Since many organizations are highly selective when choosing volunteers and interns, we asked representatives from a few of the participating groups to tell us what they’re hoping to see from students attending the fair. Here are their responses.

How can students best present themselves to you at the volunteer fair?

Jennifer Abdallah, Program Manager, AmeriCorps: Research our organization to see if AmeriCorps service is something they would be interested in (non-religious community service with children, paid with a living allowance and education award).

Lindsay Penn, Director of Volunteer Service, Make-A-Wish Foundation: We know that their class schedule and other activities determine their presentations, so any way that they feel comfortable. However, I would appreciate the students who choose to dress appropriately  to meet with potential internship employers (does not have to be “professional”).

Cindy Dale, Talent Acquisition Specialist, American Heart Association: Dressing business casual is fine. We understand that some students may be coming from class, etc. We want this event to be interactive and fun!

What would you like to hear in an “elevator” pitch?

Abdallah, AmeriCorps: Name, major, type of experience they are looking for.

Penn, Make-A-Wish Foundation: I would just like to have a candid conversation about the student’s interests in internship opportunities and how that opportunity might benefit him or her in the future based on course of study. What can he or she really bring to the table?

Dale, American Heart Association: We are happy to discuss what AHA does if no prior research has been done. They should be able to discuss why they want to be part of a non-profit organization.

Should students bring their resumes or anything else?

Abdallah, AmeriCorps: No resumes needed!

Penn, Make-A-Wish Foundation: Resumes would be great!

Dale, American Heart Association: Please no resumes. We will provide students information on how to join our talent community or how to apply for a job.

 

Alumni Answers: How can I explain my major?

Alumni Answers: How can I explain my major?

Have you ever had a negative reaction to your choice of study, or felt the need to defend it? I am an art major (business concentration) and often have to let comments roll of my back or explain myself for choosing a major that is not widely considered “useful.” Any suggestions for how to tactfully and briefly explain why my liberal arts degree is useful, but in a way that makes a lasting impression with the person questioning it? (Mary Kate, Art 2018)

 

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

A liberal arts education is useful because it teaches you how to write and how to think about very difficult questions. That carries over to any profession. Internships are useful because they can teach you to work on the exact same things with the exact same software you might use in your first full time job. Almost every undergraduate major is going to cover a wide variety of topics at a high level. Graduate degrees tend to get more specialized.

Wendy R. (BA English, 2007), Self-employed writer

Mary Kate, this happens every day of my life as a creative writer and literature major. I receive three responses to my chosen major and field. 1. So you are going to teach then? 2. What are you going to do with that? 3. Can you actually earn money writing? All of these questions suggest that my major exists inside of a box. No major exists inside of box. The person wielding the major is where the value lies. I know plenty of post MBA, PhD, MD, and JD candidates who have failed at their professions or ended up profoundly miserable in their chosen fields. I know an equal number of philosophy, art, history, and literature majors who have done the same. My point is, you are the value, you can do what you please with your education regardless of what university you attended and what major you chose. You define success and create your own path in the workforce. I speak from experience as a resume writer who has coached hundreds of job seekers; there is no single path to success in this life. It is often a combination of knowledge, luck, and hard work. I never change my response to these questions. I always answer that I am grateful for the depth and breadth of the knowledge I received during my undergraduate years, and that no degree could ever stop me from achieving my goals, and in fact, I am blessed that my degree has made me a more diverse and desirable candidate in every work environment I have ever been in. Hold your head, be proud of your major, and own your education. Best of luck to you.

Matthew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

Explain to them that everything they use in their day to day life – clothing, car, kitchenware, decorative items, cell phone – begins as an idea, then becomes an art project also known as a product design prototype. I was an English major. If someone criticizes my choice of study, I just correct their grammar and go about my day.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Certainly! I also find myself defending other people’s majors as well. In the case of art majors, I find I usually start with the fact that they are among the few majors on campus who actually work for their degrees. They’re out long hours, face serious review by faculty far earlier and more frequently than other majors, are forced to learn project management and presentation skills long before other students and rely on them in the public square, and at the end they have actually built things and have real accomplishments in their portfolio. That’s before you even get into broader applications like the importance of design and salesmanship in the marketplace.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

Yes, sometimes there are people who question the value of certain degrees/majors. If you are learning about something you are passionate and can relate what you have learned to how you would (or have) applied that in a work setting, you will get less negativity. Also, as you get a few years out of school, the specific major holds less and less importance…unless something very technical (IT, accounting ,etc.).

John P. (BA Fine Art, 1968; MA Fine Art, 1972), Self-employed Fine Artist

Dear Mary Kate, Well, how “useful” are any of the arts: music, literature, sculpture, ceramics, painting? If we imagine that our existence has a transcendent purpose and meaning and is more than just a utilitarian exercise, then let’s acknowledge that the arts help us to express the transcendent in human nature. A worthy occupation. And, under certain circumstances, a master plumber’s license is more useful and valuable than many kinds of advanced degrees. Consider that you will always have more to learn in this life and that a liberal arts degree is an excellent preparation for that Please don’t worry about defending your choice of study. If you are committed to it, the negative reaction of others will fade in importance. Associate with those who will inspire, challenge and encourage. Best wishes to you, John P., B.A. Fine Arts ’68, M.A. Fine Arts ’72

Rachel L. (BS Biology, 2011), Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C)  at Children’s Medical Center

Hi Mary Kate, This is a great question. When I chose my major, I chose the major that had the subject matter I was the most interested in learning. This subject happened to be biology, which was instrumental in my education to become a physician assistant. However, when choosing a major, I think pursuing a subject you are passionate about is more important than choosing a “useful” major. While some jobs may require specific skills, most likely you will learn a lot on-the-job in your first job out of college. Being a more well-rounded individual who studied a subject they are passionate about will be more useful to you in the long term! Best, Rachel L.

 

 

Alumni Answers: Getting a job with a History major

Alumni Answers: Getting a job with a History major

For the people who have History and majors that seem to not be so helpful when trying to get a job such as Art or Philosophy majors, how easy or applicable was your major to getting a job? Did it make it difficult to get a good job? (Gihad, History 2020)

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

It’s easy to get a good job with a history degree as long as you go to graduate school afterwards. My manager has a history degree from Columbia. She now manages a team that analyzes criminal justice data for the Texas legislature. She has a graduate degree in public affairs. My advice is get an undergraduate in something that you like, that is interesting to you. Many jobs prefer a masters degree. When that is the case, many times the focus will be on what your masters degree is in.

Matthew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

What you choose to study could be a hindrance should you choose to work outside that particular career field. Government service is always an option – and an especially good one for History majors. Pick an alphabet agency (CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.) where knowledge of history is an asset and do research on possible careers.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Some of that depends on what you mean by good job. My own major is in English and it has certainly proven to be an asset. The key aspect, in my experience and this was true for my friends in STEM as well, is that you need to be able to articulate and demonstrate specific competencies and accomplishments. In my case that involved setting up a portfolio and having a list of accomplishments beyond my major (working in the residence hall association, having various projects to my name, racking up a few awards, building professional experience, etc). I highly recommend getting the best advice you can on putting together a portfolio and on building your writing and project credits as broadly as you can – write for student publications where you can, build up some websites, etc. Eventually I went to graduate school in a more job specialized field – technical communication and rhetoric which I would readily recommend to communication and writing focused history majors as well – and while that was helpful in a great many ways, I found that unless you were very dedicated to following one of a couple of fairly lock step paths towards employment the issues weren’t much different. Similarly, I would not neglect at least considering what credentialing or helpful supplements to your major you can acquire at UD while it is convenient. A teaching certificate, for example, does not equal destiny but it can be an edifying experience to pursue that or a similar credential and it’s certainly more convenient getting it sooner rather than later. Plus that (or prelaw and premed) get you on the radar of some of the more employment oriented professors and professionals on campus and that’s no bad thing.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

I think that your specific degree/major is helpful in finding the career that you want to get into, however it is becoming increasingly less important. Companies want to know that you fit culturally, share similar values to the organization and have experiences and skills that directly relate to what you want to do. Degrees often indicate that you are committed to education and learning. Companies want to see that you have applied your learning and can add value to the organization.

 

Hannah O., (BA History, 2011), Technical Services Librarian at City of Duncanville (Duncanville Public Library)

I ended up becoming a public librarian…for which a history degree works as well as any. For academic librarians, such a degree can be beneficial.

Alumni Answers: How have you used your liberal arts education?

Alumni Answers: How have you used your liberal arts education?

Having graduated from the University of Dallas, which prides itself in its liberal education, how useful is this type of education to you now? Can you see yourself where you are now having received a more focused and specialized education, rather than a liberal one? (Andy, Sophomore, Philosophy and Letters)

Dean C. (BA Mathematics 1994), Senior Consulting Actuary at Willis Towers Watson

Learning to think and reason is a tool which will serve you well in the future, regardless of your major or chosen career. Companies and organizations need leaders who can see the whole picture and reason through a range of possible outcomes to find the best paths forward. UD forms minds for rational thought and also forces us to be able to communicate our thoughts, both orally and written. Many young analysts (millennials) in my company struggle to focus on the task at hand and often defer to tacit agreement with other opinions rather than actually forming their own. Fight the urge to be agreeable and think outside the box. The moral aspect of your education will also make you shine as you will not spend half your day on Facebook or other social media sites when you are being paid to do a job. The ethical training inherent in a solid Catholic formation helps those of us who are disciplined by our Faith to succeed in a world which migrates to mediocrity.

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

The liberal education at UD taught me how to write and how to think carefully about very difficult questions. It also greatly improved my understanding of the world, and that is priceless. There’s precious little time for that after you graduate from college, get a full time job, and possibly start a family. Save the specialized education for graduate school. It will serve you just as well (if not better) then. For the moment (as an undergraduate), enjoy the precious opportunity to study important questions and read great books with thoughtful students and professors.

Phillip W. (BS Biology, 2015), Fulbright Research Scholar, Fulbright Organization (Madrid, Spain)

The education at UD is priceless. I work in medical research, and I use the critical thinking skills I learned from the Core everyday. You would be amazed at how many people in specialized industries regret not having had a broader education. They are highly skilled technicians, but they were never taught how to think, how to live an examined life, or (frankly) how to write coherently and build an argument. Most specialized fields require graduate degrees anyway, so you might as well study something you love and receive a philosophical formation, take your prerequisite courses for graduate programs, and then worry about getting into a specialized field. You’ll be happier and taken more seriously as a professional when you start applying for specialized jobs.

John L. (BA Business, 2016), General Ledger Accountant I at Associa

Hi Andy, One of the things I most appreciate about my education at UD is the breadth of things I studied. I was a business major and am now working in accounting, so obviously I do need to have a strong grasp of specific concepts relevant to my work, but I believe that UD really prepared me well despite perhaps a less specific/specialized education. After I’ve left UD, I’ve found myself drawing on topics from both regular core classes as well as things I learned in various business core classes. With a more specialized education, you get to know a lot about that one particular topic, but the world is much more than just one topic. Everything intertwines and if you are at least familiar with things other people are talking about, that is such a help. I know you’re a seminarian so this may not directly apply, but when I’ve had case studies about business situations or at work, I’ve discovered that I at least know generally speaking what others are talking about in many cases, even if it’s something I’m not specifically familiar with. Again, no discipline exists in a vacuum, so if you’ve at least been introduced and know a little about other disciplines, it will help you when you come across situations which deal with those disciplines or you have to interact with a specialist in those disciplines, and then you aren’t totally clueless when speaking with them.

Matthew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

Where I am now has nothing to do with my course of study at university, but it gave me a well-rounded background. This, in turn, makes it easier to find common ground with total strangers of varied backgrounds. Had I chosen a trade school to learn my current trade, I’d be much further along in my career, but again, would not have wealth of knowledge amassed in a classic education and extensive travel.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Very useful, what’s more it is the more liberal arts components of my education that continually prove the most useful and I wish I’d specialized less than I did. Currently I work in fundraising, communications, and stake holder relations for higher education, and my education beyond UD is in technical communication and rhetoric. In terms of my graduate education, a more specialized focus would have presented certain advantages (the old saw in technical communication is that where your major – presumably English – determines the work you do your minor determines where you do it – so people with a little background in Biology are more likely to work in the medical field, etc), but it was my liberal arts background that continually impressed and surprised people, opened doors for the better sorts of opportunities, and let my pursue my own interests rather than well-worn paths. For this career, it is, in fact, possible to major in Higher Education and while it is not as dire as it might sound, it’s actually less likely to give you a broad picture of the issues involved in the life of the university than actually taking classes in multiple disciplines and being in an environment where faculty collaborate openly and freely. When I say I wish I had been less specialized, it’s that I do wish I had pursued, say, more education in Education while at UD or taken the opportunity to pick up some programming chops. It’s not that those options aren’t available later, but that having a breadth beyond the core and a focus on discrete competencies helps to make the advantages of the core show up better – which was certainly my experience when I did began taking up such learning later. Thank you for your question.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

A liberal arts education has helped me see things beyond one point of view or perspective. It has allowed me to make connections between work, faith and personal life. Liberal arts helped me build critical thinking skills and draw upon many types of viewpoints when making a decision…

Rachel L. (BS Biology, 2011), Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C)  at Children’s Medical Center

Hi Andy, This is an excellent question. I was a biology major who had always planned to pursue a career in the medical field. That being said, part of the reason that I chose UD was for its strong core curriculum in the liberal arts. Now, that doesn’t mean it was easy. Being more “left-brained” and more adept at the sciences, I struggled through some of my literature, philosophy, and theology classes. However, in retrospect, these core classes were valuable to make me a well-rounded individual, for both my personal and professional goals. I am so glad I received a liberal arts education! Best, Rachel L.

Hannah O., (BA History, 2011), Technical Services Librarian at City of Duncanville (Duncanville Public Library)

I feel like my liberal education gave me a great general background, and a greater appreciation for all the different realms of knowledge. Since I’m a librarian, these are especially good things to have. The intangibles would have been worth it even if I didn’t end up in that profession, however.