The transformative TFAS summer programs provide a plethora of resources for bright young leaders across the country each year, and this summer’s virtual program was no exception. Through exclusive online site briefings and weekly professional development seminars, participants expanded their networks and made lasting connections with professionals in a variety of fields.
One of the most impactful events each summer is the Alumni Roundtable. The top-rated annual event allows TFAS students to hear career advice and networking tips from successful program alumni. This summer, the program was converted into a virtual event, allowing students to meet directly with alumni and gain valuable advice during small group Zoom meetings.
The 2020 TFAS Student-Alumni Virtual Networking Event featured opening remarks from 35 alumni professionals in business, government, international affairs and journalism. Following introductions, students joined breakout rooms with alumni for an interactive discussion session on career growth and professional development.
In addition to the virtual format, another distinction from this year’s event was the increased number of alumni that each student had access to. Following opening remarks, alumni were moved from breakout room to breakout room on a set schedule, allowing small groups of students to meet directly with multiple alumni. TFAS Vice President of International and Alumni Programming Michelle Le ’95, ’96 participated in the event and was pleased with how many students she was able to talk with in this new format.
“Because of the organized Zoom breakout rooms, everyone knew the set schedule, and alumni would be moved to another room after the timer was up,” she said. “This ‘speed networking’ format allowed alumni to meet with the maximum number of students, which was even more than previous years when we hosted in person. This not only increased students’ access to alumni, but it put our alumni volunteers face to face with more impressive TFAS students.”
Julie McConnell ’07, PPF ’11, kicked off this summer’s virtual discussion with advice for students interested in a career in government and politics. A former Department of Energy employee who currently works as a labor and employment attorney in D.C., McConnell encouraged students to advocate for themselves to accomplish their career goals.
“You are your best advocate so if you want something, go for it,” McConnell said. “Sometimes people will tell you no, but no one is going to be a better advocate for you than you are for yourself.”
Accomplished journalists and news anchors also shared advice with students during the virtual networking event. Breaking news reporter for The New York Times, Neil Vigdor ’98, challenged aspiring journalists in the program to expand their horizons and embrace versatility.
“If you’re interested in a career in journalism you have to be versatile,” Vigdor said. “Embrace change, get outside of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to try new things.”
Gabrielle Lewis ’20 shared that the 2020 Student-Alumni Virtual Networking Event gave her the necessary confidence to pursue a career in journalism. After hearing advice from successful alumni like Vigdor, Lewis is excited for her future in the field.
“Getting to ask professionals questions and learn the extent of the TFAS Alumni Network has been both eye-opening and exciting. I feel more secure in how to go about pursuing a career in journalism in college and beyond.“Gabrielle Lewis ’20
Abby Nugent ’16 also offered insight on how her TFAS experience led her to a career in fundraising. As a senior associate in foundation fundraising at the American Enterprise Institute, Nugent encouraged students to view the challenges they faced this summer as a valuable opportunity.
“I know it’s certainly a hard time for all of you having to transition to a virtual space, but it’s definitely something that you can use to market yourself in the future,” Nugent said. “You can talk about how you turned this adversity into an experience this summer that was really valuable.”
TFAS Virtual Summer student Olivia Truesdale ’20 believes that the advice she received from alumni over the course of the summer has exposed her to a several new opportunities she hopes to pursue in the future.
“I enjoyed being able to network with TFAS alumni, including my mentor. I learned a lot from them about how to start a career in D.C. and got a lot of valuable advice about graduate school.”Olivia Truesdale ’20
Thank you to our generous alumni volunteers for sharing your time and insights with students.