By Jon Lueth
Let me start this by stating that I won’t be doing proper justice to the reality of the wonderful experience that has been this trip. I’m going to attempt to cover as much as makes sense for this blog right now, and if need be I will certainly post a second part as a means of carrying on the conversation as we wind down towards the Inauguration of President-elect Trump. Now that that little warning is out of the way I can shift into the conversation that actually matters…HOLY COW THERE’S SO MANY DRAKE ALUMNI HERE!!!! When I signed on for this trip I never would have expected to meet with so many Drake alumni who are not only willing to meet with us during this trip, but are excitedly willing to reach out and remain a point of contact for us moving forward. The beauty of these alumni, other than their passion to not only succeed in their own work but help us current students succeed in our goals, is that they come from a wide array of backgrounds, and (possibly) more importantly currently rest within a wide variety of positions.
Whether one is interested in getting involved with foreign policy at the State Department with Paul Larson, or the world of food at the USDA with Lanon Baccam, or helping other countries with sustainable projects to improve their country by joining with Matt Clark at Pyxera. If none of those sound appealing, Drake also has alums that work in lobbying by connecting with Drake Alums Paul Doucette or Matt Thornblad who work at Battelle and United Technologies respectively. Or if being a public servant is more your style connect with Congressman David Young or perhaps, if that’s too in the spotlight, maybe you prefer to take a page out of Evan Jurkovich’s book and become a professional staff member on with the House Agriculture Committee. All of these names in all of these fields, it might seem really impressive, but it becomes even more impressive when you realize that this is but a drop in the bucket in terms of the total number of Drake alumni who are actively working
in D.C. We were fortunate enough to meet with several of them at the alumni event we hosted here in D.C. Even then though, there are so many more alumni in the area that are just as willing to assist not only the current Drake students, but Drake students to come in the future. Running into all of these wonderful people makes it seem like a second home. A colleague and I literally ran into a Drake alum while crossing the street on our way to the metro one night, and another small group of students ran into a different Drake alum while riding the metro on their way back to the RAF (our living quarters). It seems like there is an element of Drake at literally every turn in D.C., and this is not just limited to our alumni themselves.
There have been a variety of instances where we have met with people connected to Drake either through a professor (such as our meeting with Sarah Binder with the Brookings Institution) or simply being current or former co-workers of our alumni. All of these people have been ready, willing, and joyful to interact with us and extend their help in any way possible.
You might be asking yourself…what should be the big takeaway from this blog post? Well there’s two big takeaways that I thought of repeatedly while writing it. 1.) If D.C. is your town, there’s no better place to be connected to than Drake University and 2.) Connections truly do mean a lot, especially here in D.C. The above blog post should be more than enough of a response to the first takeaway. As for the second takeaway, well all of the people that we have had the great opportunity to meet with have talked about the way they found their way to their current position, and that story always involved reaching out to someone in their network and either asking for advice, a recommendation, or just outright asking for a job. An important note though, is that they all also spoke on the importance of cultivating those relationships. It’s one thing if you only reach out to members of your “network” when you need something, but to actually interact with the people and maintain contact beyond that simple “help me out” contact, you are able to not only gain some life long (barring anything crazy happening) friends and/or colleagues, but the recommendations become more reliable and it becomes a give and take relationship.
To summarize all of this into a few big takeaways overall: don’t be a jerk, cultivate your network, utilize your network, and understand Drake basically has a capitol on the work to be done in D.C.