I spent the Fall 2020 semester participating in the Washington, D.C. Semester Program. This program was an experience that I was interested in before I had even applied to Holy Cross, so I was excited to begin the journey after my acceptance. I ultimately landed on an internship with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in their Security Operations and International Operations offices. What I valued most about my internship experience was the balance of autonomy and trust my supervisors gave me while also always working tirelessly to engage with me and find projects that fit my interests. My classes and professors at Holy Cross prepared me well to tackle all of the projects that I worked on. One example of this is that my supervisors frequently asked for my feedback and review on documents before they were submitted, valuing the writing and revising skills I had developed at Holy Cross. Going into my internship I took this knowledge, but also an open mind knowing that there was so much to learn in the work environment from my colleagues and projects I was doing. Although I was working almost entirely on Zoom, I was exposed to lots of new experiences, learned so much about both the TSA’s mission and connected my academic studies to foster intellectual and personal growth. As the J.D. Power Center’s mission is centered around experiential learning, my holistic experience in D.C. embodied all of its most important traits.
Washington, D.C. has so much knowledge to offer that I knew I wanted to expose myself to and educate myself on as much as possible. Experiential learning is synonymous with hands-on and visual learning, taking education from something that happens solely in the classroom to something that we immerse ourselves in every day. Other students in the program and I visited as many of the Smithsonian’s as we could, such as the National Zoo, Museum of American History, Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Air and Space Museum (Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center) in Virginia. We also took a tour of the Sully Historic Site (formerly Sully Plantation) and were fortunate enough to do a tour of the White House. Additionally, I took advantage of the motorized scooters around the National Mall and took in the various structures and statues along the way. All of these experiences were opportunities to learn and to engage with pieces of history first hand. This learning challenged us intellectually but there was also a social – emotional aspect that made it even more powerful. The Washington Semester Program provided me with new opportunities to connect information I had learned in the classroom to real-world situations to find even deeper meanings. This learning also helped build a better sense of appreciation and built upon the liberal arts foundation that Holy Cross offers.
For my thesis project I wanted to expand on my internship with the TSA and academic interests and explore a topic with real world ramifications. I was working closely with the International Affairs office and as an International Studies major I knew this was the perfect blend. Through my work at the TSA, I learned about their dedication to aviation security and that on an international scale its administration can get messy. I found in my initial research that aviation is a crucial part of our world, so I categorized it as a global public good or a good that is critical to the well-being of the citizens of the world. Throughout the writing process I developed my central thesis statement and ultimately focused on the international ramifications of private-public partnerships and increasing international bodies’ ability to regulate the supply of global public goods. I was fortunate enough to win the Vannicelli Award for the most outstanding thesis produced in my semester in the Washington Program. Last month, I presented my research and findings to the campus community and was honored to share a piece of the hard work I put into my thesis. I learned more about this topic than I ever could have imagined, but it was also an opportunity to strengthen my writing and research skills which will be valuable for any path in the future. My experience in the Washington Program inspired me to become a Center Ambassador for the J.D. Power Center during my senior year and to begin pursuing opportunities in International Affairs after graduation. Finally, the work that I did at the TSA, lessons from the classroom and experiences traveling around the city have fostered the tools I need to be successful both academically and professionally.
Washington, D.C. Semester Program Information: https://www.holycross.edu/academics/holy-cross-approach/engaged-learning/semester-away-programs/washington-semester-program