By Joey Gale
You may be familiar with the cheesy phrase “it’s about who you know, not what you know.” While I do value education, I’m a strong proponent of that phrase after this week.
We’ve been in DC for a week and I can easily call this place Drake’s second campus. Because of our Alumni connections, we’ve been able to meet with the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, meet with an alumna at the Department of Health and Human Services, meet with two lobbyists (both alums), get donuts and a tour of the East Wing of the White House (yup, another alum), meet in Senator Grassley’s office (lots of bulldogs) and a handful more.
From what’s been shared by our faculty members, we’ve had more Drake alumni want to meet with us than we have time to spend in DC. Each bulldog we’ve met has been excited to learn what we’re doing in the city, what the Washington Center has taught us, and have all been so passionate to share their experiences with us.
As a student in the College of Business and Public Administration at Drake, building a strong professional network is taught from day one. While Des Moines is a small pond for us to test those skills, it wasn’t until getting to DC until those really came to life. Doors open for you in DC when you’re with a Drake Alum. They all have freely offered advice on finding and starting a career, the dos and don’ts of the city, and the best places to go and see.
I can easily say their contributions have crafted and brought so much vibrancy to our experience, I can’t imagine visiting again without connecting with them all. They frankly are the easiest people to connect with and most free to offer advice.
Coming to the nation’s Capital for the first time with fresh eyes was overwhelming. The thought of even connecting with a Senator or meeting one of our nation’s Cabinet secretaries was not at all in my plans. Not only have our Alumni helped facilitate those connections, but they help us to see things from a different perspective. A Drake/Midwest perspective to help frame ideas for us to understand. They’ve all been where we are now.
Advice from them seems like a form of nostalgia. A way of picking something up from the past, cleaning it up and recycling it for more than it’s worth. Nobody else in DC has a vested interest for us to succeed more than the Bulldog community out here.
As discussed in earlier posts, bipartisanship has been a huge theme for our course. It’s so cool to connect bipartisan concepts and theories and see them in action through the work of our own alums. Evan Jurkovich, a Drake alum and staffer for the U.S. Agriculture Committee discussed the work he’s directly done within recent legislation on the Farm Bill. To hear how passionate he was about finding solutions and the tactics needed to do so was fascinating.
One of the biggest take aways when we met with Evan was the simple need for you to understand two things. One, that the other side doesn’t have bad intentions, and two, that the other side has valuable information that is crucial for you to build your argument.
Such a simple concept at heart, but one that I don’t think I would have come across just looking at monuments, or walking through museums.
The Drake community is strong and thriving in DC. Our alumni have transformed our experience for the better and I am thankful for time and advice they’ve shared. I hope one day to be able to reciprocate what they’ve done for us.