Wabash Blogs Immersion 2009: D.C. Externships -

March 23, 2009

A Week in Washington DC

Sumit Kovoor, '12

On the last day of my D.C. externship experience, I woke up and began to reflect. Through the dedication of the Graham family and the D.C. alumni association, my externship was made possible. In Washington, D.C., I worked with President of DESHO Productions, Aisha Davis. Surprisingly, I was the only extern who was not working directly with an alumnus. Ms. Davis’s father, Jon Davis (Class of 64’), is a Wabash alumnus and a prominent civil rights attorney in the D.C. area. At DESHO Productions, I was a business and event planning intern. I had the opportunity to develop custom contracts for each artist and select upcoming artists for the Summer Live! Series at Ronald Reagan Center.

From conversing with alumni to observing city life, everything was a learning experience. I loved being immersed in the city. In Washington, the lifestyle is so fast paced. I was taken in by everything happening. On Tuesday, I saw a free Tibet protest that I was almost motivated to partake in during my lunch break. During one of my lunch breaks, I had the opportunity to speak with an alumnus from the F.B.I. through the WabashWorks program. Every conversation with an alumnus informed my own career decisions.

This externship experience was an amazing way to spend my Spring Break. I not only gained valuable work experience, but learned about Washington D.C., area alumni, and my own career options. I loved seeing the many historical memorials and buildings. In addition, I was able to stay with Dr. David Pancost (Class of 69’) and Paige Franklin. Dr. Pancost is truly one of our greatest alumni. If you have not yet had the opportunity to meet him, you must during your four years here. This weeklong immersion has been such an enlightening experience – one that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I offer my sincerest thanks to the Graham family (Class of 64’).

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March 17, 2009

Work on Capitol Hill

Graham Youngs ‘11

I packed a little differently for Spring break this year, exchanging my swim trunks for a business suit.  For spring break this year I was able to combine business with pleasure as I was given the opportunity to serve as an extern on Capitol Hill.  I worked under alumnus Mark Walker, who currently serves as the Chief of Staff for Congressman Burton. 

This opportunity has been both educational and inspiring as I can assure you there is never a dull moment on the Hill.  I spent most of the week observing work done by the legislative assistants and answering phone calls from concerned members of Indiana’s own 5th district.  The phones were particularly active following comments made by the Congressman threatening those Salvadorans living in the U.S. with the loss of their immigration status and the inability to send money home to their families if voters in El Salvador elect the opposition FMLN party's candidate.  I found dealing with the disgruntled constituents to be a test of patience, however I am gaining a first hand appreciation for the congressional process. 

As I walk the halls of the Rayburn building, across the street from the Capitol, it is hard not to notice a certain awe-inspiring atmosphere in the air.  This feeling of significance becomes reinforced as I sit at my desk and hear the Congressman dictate orders to as many as three legislative assistants simultaneously—work on the Hill is not for the faint of heart.  The allure of working in the Capitol draws a variety of political enthusiasts ranging from college interns to vocal lobbyists.  During my stay in the Capitol city I have been fortunate enough to meet with numerous alumni who work as lawyers, defense contractors, as well as FBI agents in the greater DC area.  I feel blessed to be given the chance to meet with some truly passionate Wabash alumni and will no doubt remember this truly unique spring break experience.     

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March 16, 2009

Kris Klondaris ‘12

Today was my last day of working with Mr. Hayden Wetzel, class of ’72. Mr. Wetzel is the archivist at the Sumner School, which collects, archives, and preserves historical material for the 100+ Washington D.C. public schools. Mr. Wetzel and I have undertaken many projects in the last four days –projects that I found to be very educational and rewarding. On Monday morning, when I first arrived at work, I was brought up to speed on how the archives is organized, and then we got right to work.
Throughout the course of the last four days, we worked on a series of projects including: traveling to the Senate Curator’s office at the Capitol Building to investigate what we thought was Charles Sumner’s Senate desk at the time of the famous Sumner-Brooks affair (turns out it was an 1816 House of Representatives desk - a significant item nonetheless), retrieving Washington Star material from the Washingtoniana collection to add to the archives, visiting the Senate Historian’s office to collect information on the Congressional Page School, and lots more. The time not allotted to retrieving material was spent back at the Sumner School archiving the recently acquired items.Mr. Wetzel was kind enough to take time off before work to visit some historic locations with me, including the huge Basilica at Catholic University of America, and I am thankful that he taught me more history than I ever thought I could comprehend in only four days.

Of course, the working part of the externship has only been part of the experience. The six externs and dozens of Wabash alumni have so far met on two occasions. Speaking with the alums and learning from their expertise has given me a lot of insight into the possibilities of my Wabash and post-Wabash careers.Long dinner conversations with my hosts, Dave Pancost ’69 and his wife Paige, have taught me more about Wabash,and what it means to be a part of all that Wabash has to offer. I am grateful to all those who made this enriching experience possible.

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Discussion with Fukuyama, coffee at the Polish Embassy

Filip Lempa '11

My externship at the Embassy of Afghanistan has been a truly dynamic and extraordinary experience. On the second day of the externship I was given the task to research major U.S. publications in order to look for opinion editorials concerning Afghanistan. I prepared a spreadsheet which was further analyzed by the employees of the Embassy. I was soon informed that the Embassy prepared a response to one of the op-ed articles posted by The New York Times. The response was sent and The New York Times agreed to publish it. It really felt that even though I’m spending just a few days
at the Afghan Embassy, I have the opportunity to make significant contribution. The externship, however, was getting more exciting every day.

On the third day I represented the Embassy on a discussion titled: "Democracy in U.S. Security Strategy: From Promotion to Support” that took place in the Washington D.C. Center for Strategic and International Studies building. The discussion featured three contributing authors: Larry Diamond, a leading contemporary scholar in the field of democracy studies, Francis Fukuyama, a political economist and philosopher, and Michael McFaul, a professor of political science and director of the
Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. The connection between academics and global experience, both provided through Wabash College, immediately came to my mind. The first text I have read at a political science course at our college was a
chapter from the State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century book by Mr. Fukuyama. I found it extremely interesting and rewarding to be able to have a brief chat with Mr. Fukuyama after the event.

On the last day of the externship my Afghan host, Ashraf Haidiri ‘01, took me to a meeting with the First Secretary in the political section of the Polish Embassy, Marcin Piotrowski. We spent over an hour discussing Polish military involvement in Afghanistan and other issues concerning
both countries. I found it amazing to participate in such a high-level diplomatic experience. In the late afternoon of that day I also attended a networking dinner organized by Joseph Hynds ’86. The dinner was a very upscale yet informal and fun. All three networking events our group participated in during the externship experience made a very positive impression on me. Although Crawfordsville is not at all close to Washington D.C. the alumni group from this region, currently led by Jefferson Crew ‘01, is strong and very involved.

The spring break Washington D.C. externship was a phenomenal experience. I am very thankful for the generosity of the Graham family and would recommend it to every Wabash student.

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March 13, 2009

Government and the Legal Business

Alex Ingram ‘10

Through the generosity of the Graham family I have been able to take part in the Washington D.C. externship program.  My alumnus and mentor is Joe Hynds, a partner at Rothwell, Figg, Ernst, and Manbeck. The law firm is an intellectual property firm, and Joe himself specializes in litigation.

This opportunity has been eye opening and rewarding.  I feel that Joe, and the other partners and associates I have been working with, were initially unsure of how much work an undergraduate could handle. However, as I kept pressing each of the members to throw me in the lion’s den, they granted my request. My Tuesday was spent digging through the library here at the office doing legal research on Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 11 procedural requirements in conjunction with patent misuse counterclaims. Tuesday morning I was lost, but I feel as if I could recite from Moore’s and explain the base elements of misuse counterclaims at this point.

I’ve had opportunities other than legal research as well.  I sat in on a Senate Judiciary hearing over patent reform, in which Herbert Wamsley spoke, as well as the CEO’s of Johnson & Johnson, Micron, and other industry giants with much at stake in the current legislation. Just this morning I rushed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to listen to oral arguments over a jurisdictional misstep in the assassination of a U.S. citizen’s alien father on French soil. Although this is wholly unrelated to patent litigation and prosecution, it was a great experience to be able to sit in regardless.

Life in D.C. is more exciting than I could have imagined. I’ve taken it upon myself to see as much of the city as possible, and the proximity of my office to the heart of the political happenings in D.C. has certainly helped. I’ve also been able to travel to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Virginia, which provides a great advantage to those intellectual property lawyers living nearby.  As a math student, I can certainly appreciate the unbelievable sophisticated database that is exclusive to the patent office.

The networking events have provided more opportunities as well. Sunday evening we were taken to retired Admiral, and now current L-3 Communications exec., Alex Miller’s house for a barbecue.  All in all it has been a great experience and I am very thankful for the opportunity.

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March 12, 2009

Participating in an Externship

Mark Thomas '10

For my externship I have been lucky enough to work this week at L3 Communications under Admiral Alex Miller  '71.  L3 is an IT defense contractor.  As a contractor, L3 is constantly seeking to submit proposals for various Department of Defense contracts which are being bid on by numerous companies.  At L3 I have assisted multiple departments of the corporation in order to better understand how a successful business functions on a daily basis.  A very rewarding aspect of this externship has been the ability to attend multiple meetings during the day.   These span from meetings in the financial department to contract proposal preparation meetings.  Though, by far, the most satisfying part of my time here has been shadowing and speaking with Admiral Miller.

Alex Miller is a retired Navy Admiral, which is the highest rank one can attain while serving in the Navy.  While in the Navy, he served in the intelligence field as a naval cryptologist whose final position of service was Chief of the National Security Agency (NSA).  By following him around and picking his brain, I have been able to understand how important leadership skills are in business and also how Wabash prepared him for his illustrious career in the military and his continuing career at L3.

This past night we were able to travel into D.C. and have dinner with the rest of the Wabash externs, Career Services, and Wabash Alumni.  It is always a great time when you are able to gather with fellow Wallies and speak of past and present experiences at the college we all call home.  I cannot wait for the next couple of days here.  I'm really having a great time and am acquiring a wealth of knowledge throughout this Spring Break.

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March 10, 2009

First Day in Washington D.C.

Filip Lempa '11

This spring break I have the opportunity to be in Washington D.C. as a participant of a Wabash College externship and networking experience.  I’m here with five other Wabash students, each of us externs at a different place for four days.  We also enjoy networking events and have one day on our agenda allocated to sightseeing.  On Sunday, the first day of the program, our group was welcomed in the capital of the United States at a barbeque cookout organized by the Washington D.C. area Wabash alumni. It was a great pleasure to be there. I am looking forward to the other networking events planned for this week.

Today was the first day at my externship site, the Embassy of Afghanistan. I came here with a previous diplomatic experience of a summer consular assistant at the British Consulate in Katowice, Poland. I was very excited to see how the Afghan people handle their international relations, and to learn more about their country in general.  At the Embassy, I work with Ashraf Haidiri, an Afghanistan native, who graduated from Wabash in 2001.  Mr. Haidiri is a hard-working patriot committed to the difficult task of improving the situation in his country.  We spent the first day of the externship discussing the current events related to Afghanistan, as well as its prospects for the future.  I am very thankful to Wabash for having the opportunity to spend spring break in a vibrant American city, yet doing so in a productive and meaningful way.


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