Hilltop on the Hill, 2014

Students traveled to Washington, D.C., in October 2014 as part of SMU’s Hilltop on the Hill program. The students visited media and government sites, and met with political communicators, journalists and SMU alumni. The trip was led by Rita Kirk, director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility and professor of Communication Studies in Meadows School of the Arts; Sandy Duhe, Chair of the Division of Communication Studies; and Stephanie Ann Martin, assistant professor of Communication Studies. Endowed by the Bauer Foundation, the Hilltop on the Hill program also takes students studying political communication to political party conventions, the presidential Inauguration and the G8 Economic Summit.

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The value of hard work and good relationships

Photo by Monica/SMU Adventures

Photo courtesy of Monica/SMU Adventures

An update from Monica, a senior majoring in communication studies:

What an experience this has been for me – the growth, the endurance, and the lessons. Washington, D.C., is as beautiful as I had heard; it without a question surpassed expectations. The metropolitan city is full of good energy and diversity, which only makes its vibe that much more attractive.

Getting to spend an entire five days in the city with such brilliant people, which included my peers and three incredible leaders, led to my realization of a few things. Teamwork is everything; having and maintaining good relationships with others is vital. The fact that Dr. Kirk, alongside Dr. Duhe and Dr. Martin, have coordinated such a trip where we get to meet people whom we most likely otherwise wouldn’t have met, is remarkable. I will forever be grateful to these professors and Southern Methodist University for such a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

D.C.’s pace is much faster than most cities’; people here mean serious business. It’s very motivating to see how people put their all into something and achieve high results. Former Congressman Jack Fields has accomplished so much in his lifetime, from being welcomed into office at the tender age of 27 to now owning his own lobbying firm in the heart of D.C. Getting to meet him and hearing his story made me aware of the fact that I was standing with a real leader, an accomplished one.

Another humbling experience came when we sat down with Dan Weiser, the Director of Communications for the U.S. House of Representatives. As we walked down the halls of our beautiful Capitol on The Hill, it hit me that we were without a doubt in such a privileged position. We walked down to a special conference room and got to ask questions with answers that required “off the record” status.

Hilltop on The Hill has taught me to work hard and to always maintain professionalism at a really high standard. It has also made me realize the real value in creating, building and maintaining a network. Overall it has instilled a certain confidence in me that wasn’t there before; I will follow, create and achieve my own goals and dreams. There’s nothing that will stop me from working as hard as I have to in order to make this a reality.

My name is Monica Rodriguez, and I plan to use my communication and leadership skills to widely impact underserved populations by the use and creation of educational resources.

Thank you, Dr. Kirk, Dr. Duhe and Dr. Martin. You all have made an impact on my life that will forever be maintained.

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