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Students advocate for defense research funding, career opportunities

Students advocate for defense research funding, career opportunities

As Congress held hearings on the coronavirus and various appropriations bills, FIU staff advocated for international education and additive technologies—and the Talent Lab brought 25 students to the nation’s capital to advocate for more defense research funding and interview for internships as part of a fly-in sponsored by the MITRE Corporation.

March 12, 2020 at 12:00am

Twenty five FIU students visited the nation’s capital for the defense and national security technologies fly-in series last week with the goal of advocating on behalf of the university to various Congressional offices and researching employment opportunities through workshops and online panels. 

The DC Fly-In series, held during fall and spring semesters, give students the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., and engage with government, academia and industry experts while learning about preeminent research at FIU.

“My major is crime science and while that does not sound typical for this fly-in, I learned about the difference in perspectives in regards to national defense, how much money we should be allocating to national defense and how much money we should allocate to research," says School of International & Public Affairs student Kaya Alexander. "This is research FIU students are doing and need to take the first step into their careers.” 

Within the first hour of students landing in D.C., they received advocacy training from the university's governmental relations team. The training focused on efficiently and effectively speaking to Congressional team members.

Students later spoke to representatives from the offices of Senator Marco Rubio, Representatives Charlie Crist, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, and also the Senate Armed Services Committee.   

Prior to coming to Washington, the students learned about some of the research they would be advocating for during the visit. They met with Mark Finlayson, eminent scholar chaired assistant professor of computer science and director of the COGNAC Artificial Intelligence Lab, and Arvind Agarwal, distinguished university professor and chair at the College of Engineering & Computing, who hosted students in his plasma forming laboratory and spoke about the upcoming Cold Spray Technologies laboratory, which would only be the fifth of its kind in the United States.

“The visit to the Hill was an experience that I didn’t think I would have had in a million years. To be here in D.C. is a big deal and presenting my remarks to Debbie Mucarsel-Powell was amazing,” says College of Arts, Sciences & Education student Michael Lopez, who has plans to intern for a second time this summer at NASA.

Lopez was also selected to speak at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Forum on Hispanic-serving institutions. 

On the corporate side, students witnessed a public policy panel where Chris Boyer, VP of public policy on cybersecurity at AT&T, and Amy Smith,  FIU alumna and senior director of international operations and policy, gave students advice on how to get into the national security workforce and they shared their own stories about joining their corporations.    

There was also a visit by David Brandt,an executive of Lockheed Martin, and an early career panel with employees of MITRE Corporation, including one current FIU student intern and one FIU alumnus.

MITRE—a not-for-profit corporation that works in the public interest through various research fields ranging from national security to health informatics—sponsored the three-day fly-in. The organization's partnership with FIU has increased joint research and the placement of FIU student interns in their corporation.

The week included a visit to the National Museum of American History to interact with military history experts and to Win Without War, an advocacy coalition of activists and organizations working for a more peaceful, progressive U.S. foreign policy. The Government Accountability Office also stopped by FIU in D.C. to give a presentation on internship opportunities and career planning.

Carlos Mondesir, current FIU intern and MPA student at Steven J.Green School of International & Public Affairs, organized this visit. Mondesir was a member of a past fly-in experience and now interns at GAO after learning of their efforts during that experience. 

This “Future of” Fly-In Series was produced in partnership with Campus Life and the Honors College with the support of the Student Government Association. Students from The Honors College, College of Engineering & Computing, College of Arts, Sciences & Education, Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, and the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work participated.

Learn more about the Talent Lab at FIU in Washington, D.C. 

FIU in Washington, D.C., is an integrated advocacy approach aimed at increasing FIU’s national reputation and federal support for FIU’s preeminent and emerging preeminent programs, faculty and students. The FIU in DC team collaborates with academic units to provide learning experiences and support the placement of students and alumni in internships and permanent employment.  


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