Hilltop on the Hill 2013

Eight students are in Washington, D.C., in October 2013 as part of SMU’s Hilltop on the Hill program. 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 in Meadows School of the Arts and director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility; Sandra Duhé, chair of communication studies, associate professor and director of the Meadows School’s public relations program; and Candy Crespo, assistant director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility. 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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Washington, a city of possibilities

LaurenAn update from Lauren, a sophomore majoring in political science in Dedman College and public relations in Meadows School of the Arts:

Being in D.C. for the past four days has made me realize so many things about myself, my future, and the workplace. We met so many highly successful, influential people in professional settings over the course of only four days. I came out of nearly every meeting thinking, “I want to work here!” I have realized that politics really is what I love and that I can’t imagine doing anything else.

One thing that I liked was being thrust into such professional settings. Most students are not exposed to very formal, professional settings until their first internship or job. We had the great opportunity to meet with professionals in their industries as well as meet alumni at an alumni mixer, and luckily we had great advisers to give us feedback about everything. There are so many important things to think about when you are in a professional environment that you just don’t know until someone tells you, so having such a great, professional faculty at SMU that has plenty of experience in the workforce was extraordinarily helpful.

People aren’t exaggerating when they say that D.C. is an extremely diverse city with a rich history. Being in the capital of the United States – with it having the history that it does – we were amazed to see so many landmarks and historical places. The thought and care  which the people long before us put into making these buildings and landmarks are incredible. It’s amazing to know that nearly everywhere you stand in this city, something that’s a part of our history probably happened there. It was also fascinating to see the diversity that the city has. Although Dallas does have diversity, it does not have it to the extent that D.C. does. Everywhere you walk, you hear tons of different languages and accents, and are easily able to experience other cultures.

Another thing about D.C. is that it is also a city that is all about networking and whether you are able to go after what you want. Many of the people we met with told us how they just packed up after they graduated from their undergraduate studies and left for D.C., regardless of whether they had a job or not. Something that they stressed was that nearly all of them found jobs through the connections they had made as an undergraduate student. Going on this trip gave us the opportunity to make connections now that not many students will be able to make.

A couple of the places that we visited that stuck with me the most were CNN and the Glover Park Group. We were able to see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes at CNN and talk to people who are major players within the network. As a political science and public relations major, I loved hearing about CNN’s brand and how they market themselves, as well as getting to meet Wolf Blitzer and see the set of his show and CNN’s new show, The Lead with Jake Tapper. The Glover Park Group is a strategic communications firm founded by several members of the Clinton administration. Both CNN and Glover Park Group had environments where I could definitely see myself working in the future.

Although I’ve been to D.C. before, I never got to see this much of the city the last time I was here. I completely fell in love with the city during this trip, and I absolutely can’t wait until I can come back. Being able to meet all of these successful people and hear their stories, get their advice and insight, and learn about what they do was one of the best things I have ever done at SMU. Experiences like Hilltop on the Hill are a huge part of why I chose SMU. These opportunities are very rare, and the great thing about SMU is that anyone who is willing to work hard is able to have these opportunities given to them. The most important thing I learned was that although D.C. is a tough city, if you aren’t afraid to go after what you want, your possibilities are endless.

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