By Nirvana Bhatia
MA candidate in International Human Rights
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Students from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies recently experienced first-hand all the action in the nation's capital, while tapping into key employment opportunities at the same time.
The Josef Korbel School's Office of Career and Professional Development offers students a Career Connections trip that takes them through a whirlwind networking tour with government agencies and nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C.
"I thought it was a great chance to see the organizations and get a better feel for their cultures," said Ben Soloway, a master's candidate in International Security at the Josef Korbel School. "In that sense it was good for figuring out which places I want to work at, or would prefer not to work at."
Ben doesn't think he made any significant insider connections during the trip, but Mira Morton Luna, a manager in the Office of Career and Professional Development, said that the office has seen direct results from the program when a follow-up call to a connection from a Career Connections trip resulted in an internship.
"It's all about the human contact and building relationships," she said.
The program grew out of the frustration experienced by Josef Korbel School Office of Career and Professional Development Director, Jodi Lundin, when she couldn't secure job and internship opportunities in the capital for Josef Korbel School students. Lundin decided that if these organizations wouldn't recruit in Denver, she would go to them.
Seven years later, an established alumni community has evolved from program interns who were promoted to employees who are looking now to hire fellow Josef Korbel School alumni.
"The community builds, and now key organizations are opening their doors to us," Luna said. "It's a pay-it-forward mentality."
The trip took place during the winter break and students visited 31 sites around Washington D.C. in five days. The highlight: A visit to the Pentagon, where students shared lunch with U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, who earned his master's degree from the Josef Korbel School in 1980.
"That's why this trip is so unique," Lundin said. "Anyone can visit the Pentagon, but you still wouldn't get to have lunch with General Casey -- and just days after the release of the Afghan Papers. Students were able to ask him all sorts of questions about his experiences."
The Afghan Papers is a 422-page history prepared by senior U.S. Army commanders to teach the story of the Afghanistan conflict.
The Career Connections trip is successful in great part because Lundin and Luna spend months organizing events and coordinating with old and new contacts. Still, there's an element of luck to facilitating some of these meetings as well.
When she arrived in Washington, D.C. for the 2009 trip, Lundin discovered that the Millennium Challenge Corp., a U.S. foreign-aid agency established in 2004 to help fight poverty, would be swearing in a new CEO while the students were in the nation's capital.
She also realized that the CEO, Daniel Yohannes, nominated to the post by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November 2009, was a veteran Denver banking executive with strong ties in the city's business community.
Lundin placed a call and immediately landed an invitation for the group to attend Yohannes' swearing in. Afterward, Yohannes made time to chat with students about the organization's Millennium Development Goals, a frequent course of study at the Josef Korbel School.
Although the 35 students were required to complete an application and pay administrative costs, along with air fare and accommodations, Luna said the office has done everything possible to minimize cost and make the program accessible. This year's trip cost about $1,000 per student.
"You have to look at it as an investment," Lundin said. "It's part of the job search."
The next Career Connections trip will take students to Boston and New York City in the spring.
Learn more about the Josef Korbel School's Career and Professional Development office here.