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The Washington Program: Justice Alito Meets With Public Policy Students

Washington 2

Every year, first year students (First Years) in the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy (TJPPP) participate in a two-day trip to Washington, D.C.  The trip has become a rite of passage in years past, and is a hallmark of the program.  The Washington Trip is the quintessential first-year experience, and provides students with the opportunity to participate in professional development roundtables and seminars, create vital professional contacts, take part in once-in-a-lifetime events such as watching a Supreme Court argument, and develop personal connections with each other that will last a lifetime.  Since the Washington Trip takes place within the confines of Washington, D.C., a city perfectly suited to accommodate any imaginable policy interest, students participate in the world that they will likely enter into after their graduation from the Program.

Last year's trip was on October 10 and 11, and the agenda included sitting in on a Supreme Court argument, Musladin v. Lamarque, meeting and fielding questions to Justice Samuel Alito, taking part in a discussion with lobbyists, participating in an alumni professional panel, attending a lecture on First Amendment free speech rights, and attending professional events at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Deloitte & Touche.

Day One of the Washington Trip started with First Years meeting at the Supreme Court to hear the oral arguments presented for Musladin v. Lamarque.  Students were able to follow the arguments with clarity and insight, as Musladin is a case they studied in depth in their Law for Public Policy class.  Being able to understand the intricacies of the case based on their class experiences helped students overcome any situational intimidation they may have had, and made the arguments not only comprehendible, but interesting.

Shortly after observing the Musladin proceedings, students were fortunate enough to meet the most recent Supreme Court appointee, Justice Samuel Alito.  Justice Alito shared his afternoon with the First Years, explaining some hidden complexities of being a Supreme Court Justice, procedural elements not always obvious to the outside world, and then accepted questions from students.  Students were excited and fortunate to discuss issues lofty enough to study and accessible enough to relate to with such an esteemed member of the judiciary.

After meeting with Justice Alito, students participated in a roundtable discussion with three lobbyists, Robert Healy, Tim Daily, and Lori Pepper.  The combined experiences of these three individuals exposed the First Years to the wide variety of opportunities available in this profession.  Mr. Healy, a longtime political professional, told students of the changes in lobbying from the Kennedy Administration to the present day, Mr. Daily spoke of the differences in professional lobbying and working with lobbyists from inside an elected officials’ office, and Ms. Pepper spoke of her experiences working within the telecommunications industry.  All three provided valuable advice and perspective on the political world and persuasive skills that will help students regardless of whether they become lobbyists or not.

The final event of Day One was an alumni panel.  Six College of William & Mary alumni appeared before the First Years and spoke of their different experiences in fields ranging from statistical applications for an educational advocacy group, working as a Legislative Correspondent in a Senator’s office, and working as an economist at the World Bank.  Several other alumni joined the reception later, and students were able to network and begin thinking about internship possibilities for the upcoming summer.  This event wrapped up a full first day.

The morning of Day Two was packed with panelists of different specializations, who appeared to help students understand how extensive every policy decision is.  The day began with a presentation from two First Amendment lawyers, who spoke of policy issues regarding decency, obscenity, and censorship.  The speakers used several examples of how seemingly minor policy implementations change entire industries and stir controversies, and proved that there is always room for new ideas in policy.

The next presentation was from two Deloitte & Touche economists, who explained how policy affects accounting and corporations, and the economy at large.   Deloitte representatives were also able to advise students on internship considerations.

The afternoon of Day Two began at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and ended at the Governmental Accountability Organization (GAO), where both agencies demonstrated that policymakers play a multitude of different roles in government work.  The EPA representatives spoke of a range of environmental policy roles the EPA handles, from toxic waste to local flood issues and more.  The GAO representatives informed students of the agencies’ role in monitoring government spending and responsibility, and encouraged student to consider the GAO for summer internships.

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The Washington Trip was a success, and First Years returned to Williamsburg excited at the opportunities laid out to them for their internships and prospective careers in public policy and public service.  The networking paths they initiated and the information they gathered will be valuable in helping determine this summer’s internships, and will help establish the direction of their careers.