Hilltop on the Hill, 2013 Inauguration

Twenty-one communication studies and journalism students are in Washington, D.C., in January 2013 as part of the Meadows School of the Arts’ Hilltop on the Hill program. In addition to reporting on Inaugural events, the students will visit media and government sites, and meet with political communicators, journalists and SMU alumni. The trip is led by Rita Kirk, professor of communication studies; Daniel Schill, assistant professor of communication studies, and Carolyn Barta, journalism professor. Endowed by the Bauer Foundation, the Hilltop on the Hill program also takes students studying political communication to political party conventions and the G8 Economic Summit.

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So you want to work in Washington?

An update from Morgan, a sophomore business and communication studies major, and Spanish minor:

Since we stepped off the metro from Washington Reagan airport, the Hilltop on the Hill program has been a nonstop whirlwind of meetings with journalists, reporters, lobbyists, and even congressmen. Despite the different career paths of these professionals, one underlying theme remained the same: Washington, D.C., is run by people under 30.

SMU alumni and students in D.C.

For SMU students looking to move to D.C. upon graduation, this is an exciting fact. SMU prepares students exceptionally well for life in D.C., making the transition from the Hilltop to the Hill easier than one may think.

This connection is due in part to the fact that the SMU alumni chapter in D.C. is booming. Over 50 alums and current students congregated last night in a well-known Washington staple called Old Ebbitt. There, I spoke to two alumni who gave me the real scoop on how to make it in our nation’s capital.

Chrissy, who graduated less than five years ago, is now a publicist for USA Today. She could not stress enough that the most important thing in D.C. is following up with the people you meet. Sending handwritten thank-you notes gives a personal touch to things in a city that can seem impersonal at times. The contacts you make in Washington are infinitely important, and making a lasting impression could open doors later on.

Lobbyist Gregory, who attended graduate school at SMU, described to me his foolproof plan of what SMU students can do right now to essentially lock down a job in Washington after graduation.

The simple plan has only two steps:

  • Register to vote in Dallas so that you become a constituent in your congressman’s district (you will be a potential vote, therefore very important)
  • Volunteer at his or her local office, doing anything from making calls to putting up yard signs and attending parades

Tosi assured me that two years of this would enable contact with the congressman on a personal level, making the chances of getting a job in D.C. post-graduation much higher. In short, congressmen have connections, and if you show that you are hard-working and dependable, they will be much more likely to utilize their network to your advantage.

Moving to Washington, D.C., right out of college may seem like a daunting idea, but a visit to the city quells all fears. Surprisingly enough, the intimidating well-dressed 25-year-olds with their incredible careers and amazing connections were students less than three years ago. The learning curve in Washington is huge, and the network of people willing to help out a student in need is truly inspiring. Professionals describe the sense of community on the Hill like one of a college campus, a perfect segue into the real world.

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