UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Earlier this month, the Penn State School of International Affairs (SIA) resumed its Career Exposure Trips for the first time since early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the school to pause its annual career outings to Washington, D.C. and New York City.
SIA organizes the career trips to help students explore career options, gain advice from potential employers, and expand their professional networks. Students regularly point to the trips as one of the highlights of their graduate school experience.
“The career trips expose students to a broader view of the international affairs job market and provide valuable insight into what organizations are looking for in prospective employees,” said Grant Littke, director of career services at SIA, who organizes and attends the trips. “Given their impact on students’ future careers, it was vitally important for us to resume these visits as soon as we were able to do so safely and effectively.”
Career Insight and Alumni Networking
On February 10, 36 SIA students traveled from University Park to Washington, D.C., for two days’ worth of visits at organizations focused on international affairs and related fields. This year, the students met with staff, including many in senior leadership positions, at The World Bank, National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), global consulting companies D3 Systems and Kroll, and PAE, which provides services and support to the U.S. government and its partners.
SIA tapped into its alumni network in D.C. to boost the networking aspect of the trip.
Three SIA alumni work at organizations visited this year—Jeff Goldberg (Class of 2013), director of regulatory policy at NDIA; Elizabeth Weatherly (Class of 2020), research analyst at D3 Systems; and Shelbie Emmel (Class of 2021), assistant research analyst at D3.
During lunch on the first day, students learned more about federal government contracting opportunities from SIA graduates Sarah Fusco (Class of 2019), strategic development specialist at CNA Corporation; and Tiara Barnes (Class of 2017), engagement advisor at Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Finally, the first day was capped off with an SIA alumni reception attended by current students and around 30 recent SIA graduates who work in and around the nation’s capital.
Following the D.C. trip, students spoke about their experiences.
Carita Reid, SIA Class of 2023
“The D.C. experience helped me to understand how to approach networking, what kind of questions to ask employers, and the avenues I have available. It was also an invaluable opportunity to see how the skills I have learned over the last semester apply outside of SIA. We constantly heard from employers how important statistical and writing skills are, which reaffirmed that the skills we are learning at SIA are important in government, NGOs, and other fields of political work.”
Adam VanGorder, SIA Class of 2022
“The networking opportunities that the trip provides are invaluable. In the short time since the trip ended, I have already set up some calls with potential employers and other contacts. I think this trip is a perfect way to make new connections in your prospective field—which is an important way of breaking into the job market. Beyond the ample networking opportunities that will benefit me professionally, I really enjoyed building a camaraderie with other SIA students and recent SIA graduates.”
Justin Baker, SIA Class of 2023
“The D.C. trip benefitted me by showing me that my hard work can translate into real world skills and opportunities for a great career. I met alumni and individuals who were working in fields that are making a difference in the world, and the recognition and connections made on this trip will aid me in my job search. This trip showed me what we are working for at SIA—that all the studying and researching is to help us become the best in our fields.”