In an effort to explore opportunities after I graduate, I used my STEP grant toward a program called Scholars DC. This program met once a week in spring semester to prepare for our two week visit to DC in May. During the first week in DC, we separated into a few groups to visit two or three places each day. The second week was spent meeting with professionals individually to talk about opportunities and career paths.
During the first week, my group visited the FBI training academy where we learned the process fo FBI training and we got to visit Hogan’s Valley and the shooting range to see some training in action. Then we met with Senator Tom Carper who is an Ohio State Alumni. Senator Carper allowed for us to speak with him about major issues that we are passionate about so that he may spend is time focusing on some of them. We also visited the DuPont Company to talk to the Chief Sustainability Officer about her career path and the company’s goals.
On the second day, we visited the BiPartisan Policy Center, Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and the Pentagon. At the first two places, we learned about what they do and how they try to get the general population active in their causes. At the Pentagon, we received the public tour and got to speak to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army who spoke about his role in the Pentagon as well as what it felt like to be in the Pentagon on 9/11.
On Thursday, we met with Senator Sherrod Brown, who listened to our political concerns and ideas. We then visited the DEA Headquarters where we listened to a special agent talk about his career path and what he’s done while working for the DEA. Then we visited the Secret Service Headquarters where we learned how to apply to be an agent and the process. During this visit I was pulled out of the group to have an individual meeting with a forensic scientist in the Secret Service lab. She gave me a lot of information about internships, what they look for in employee applicants, and in general how to become a forensic scientist.
On the last day of group visits, we visited the CIA and NSA headquarters. At the CIA, we got a tour of Langley and then sat down with four employees who gave us a general idea of what they do and how they got to where they are. We also spoke with someone who was fairly involved in the Bin Laden takedown and gave us a play-by-play of the hours leading up to it and the aftermath. The NSA gave us a general tour of the building and a slight overview of their work. Very suspicious.
During the second week, I conducted my individual visits, a couple of which involved one or two other students. I visited the DEA again to speak with a forensic chemist about the DEA labs and what their work involves. She was very informational about the hiring process and qualifications. I also visited the head of the Forensic Science department at George Washington University who gave me a tour of the labs, a general idea of what the program is all about, and some tips on paying for graduate school. I had dinner with a DNA analyst who works in the private sector. It was beneficial to see the difference between working in the private and public sectors. I visited the Fairfax County Jail and got to tour the prison. Finally, I met with a woman who is a DNA analyst at the Consolidated Forensic Laboratory who gave me a tour of the lab and information about what she does and how she got to where she is.
This trip was overall very beneficial. Despite having no interest in politics, I enjoyed meeting with the Senators and the political companies, hearing what they do and how they do it. The rest of the visits were much more related to my goal of becoming a forensic scientist. The visits really opened my eyes to the possibilities for careers because before this trip I really only thought I could work for police departments or the FBI. Now I have an incredible interest in working for the DEA and hopefully getting an internship there next summer. In addition, I found the graduate school visit to be extremely helpful in my search for graduate programs to continue on after I graduate in 2016.
In the future, this program will have helped me gain so much insight on the opportunities that are out there for me. I have already learned so much about interview processes, potential applicant qualifications, and general employee atmospheres of each of the places I visited. I have definitely expanded my interests for employment in my area of study and have already begun the process of applying to internships for next summer at these places I visit through the people I have met. In addition, the trip helped me begin my search for graduate school and taught me what I need to keep an eye out for when I visit. All in all, I am grateful to have had this opportunity to develop myself as a professional, make connections for future careers, and begin my journey to decide a career path!