Students make connections in nation’s capital
A group of 34 St. Olaf College students spent part of spring break in Washington, D.C., where they explored career opportunities and connected with alumni working at places like the Library of Congress, the World Bank, McKinsey & Company, and the Pentagon.
The trip, organized by the college’s Piper Center for Vocation and Career and funded with a gift from Charles Solem ’50, focused on careers in government, nonprofit, education, and international organizations. It was the final part of this year’s Connections Program, following similar trips to New York and Houston.
On their first full day in Washington, the cohort of students visited the United States Capitol, where they met with David Prestwood ’01, a senior policy advisor in the United States Senate; Matt MacKenzie ’03, a legislative assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives; and Rob Grace ’02, an analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. They also met with a group of recent alumni at Luther Place Memorial Church to hear about opportunities with organizations like Lutheran Volunteer Corps.
They then toured the Library of Congress with Mark Dimunation ’74, chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, who received media attention earlier this year for holding the key to the inauguration Bible.
“It was inspiring to see how much passion Dimunation has for meeting St. Olaf students and giving back to them ,” says program participant Lara Palmquist ’13. “You could see how excited he was when we all sang Um! Yah! Yah! together. And you could see that he still feels connected to current students.”
That evening Philip Moeller ’63, a senior institutional and social specialist at the World Bank, hosted a reception for the group at his home, which once belonged to Madison Davis, the deputy postmaster for Abraham Lincoln.
The next day, the students split up according to their career interests and followed distinct itineraries.
Those passionate about international organizations visited the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Resources Institute, while students interested in government and politics traveled to the Pentagon and to the Partnership for Public Service. Students looking for a career in the nonprofit or education sectors met with alumni at the Advisory Board Company, a consultancy firm focused on health care and higher education, and at the Capital Area Food Bank.
“Hopefully students took away an understanding of the field of international development — what opportunities exist in government, nonprofits, international development institutions, and the corporate sector,” says Ishanaa Rambachan ’08, an engagement manager at McKinsey & Company who spoke with students on the Connections Program about her work with international organizations.
The day ended with a reception at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, during which students each gave a brief presentation about their career aspirations and had the chance to meet, speak with, and get advice from 50 alumni who share similar vocational and career interests.
Parents of current St. Olaf students were involved in the program as well. The entire Connections Program group met one evening for dinner at the home of United States Navy Vice Admiral Robin Braun and Michael Braun, the parents of Rachel Braun ’13. In addition to learning about Braun’s impressive career, the evening included a presentation from a White House catering chef.
“Even with only two and half days in D.C., the program helped me make the jump from being hesitant to leave St. Olaf to being excited about life after graduation,” Palmquist says. “I learned about so many careers that I didn’t even know existed, and I learned about the many paths that can lead to those careers.”