By Eric Feldman
Last week’s second annual Women in Politics and Policy Fly-In summer—which kicked off on International Women’s Day and took place virtually this year—featured seven alumni across three days, including former Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27, 1989-2019), the first Latina elected to Congress.
The bipartisan, intergenerational group of alumni panelists exemplify FIU in DC’s role as a convener and connector of Panthers policy leaders among one another, and with current students. Students had a chance to meet Claudia Pagon Marchena, policy advisor to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Neri Martinez, minority staff director at the Senate Special Committee on Aging, reporting to Senator Tim Scott (SC).
“It was inspiring to hear from so many alumni and see how far they’ve gone, and where those of us that are still students could end up in our careers,” said Ashley Morales, a Master of Arts in Global Affairs student. “It makes it more real that someone who looks like me, and who went to the same school as me, could end up in prominent positions. I appreciate the advice they’ve given us and their offers to help us in our own career advancement.”
This semester's FIU in DC Fly-In Seminar included two firsts: a guest visit by Congressional spouse Charles L. Capito, husband of Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R, WV), who visited in his capacity as the first male president of the Congressional Club—and sessions mostly moderated by student participants, who introduced the panelists, drafted conversation questions, and called on their peers during Q&A.
“It was so nerve-wracking to lead, but I appreciated the opportunity to put myself out there,” said Veronica Ruperto, a public administration and political science major who led the session with Laura Maristany, associate director of the Governance Program at the Democracy Fund.
In a special alumni-moderated session, Lucas Cabral, a staff assistant at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, led a discussion with his boss, Rosalind Gold, the organization’s Chief Public Policy Officer.
The 16 participants, half undergraduate and half graduate students, are now working on a series of reflective assignments, including sharing the career advice they learned on LinkedIn. Many will be awarded the D.C. Advocacy, Communications, and Careers digital badge. Students were also enrolled in FIU in DC’s ‘D.C. Ready’ online course. They participated in three weeks of pre-session, which covered policy advocacy and communications and featured Cleve Mesidor, founder of the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain and Stephanie Marsellos, digital media manager at the America 250 Foundation.
Eleven out of the 32 students who have earned the badge since it was launched this past summer have secured internship or job placements. This cohort will be no exception. Organizations, including the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute, presented to the group on the internship, fellowship and professional development opportunities at the organization. Students, including Jennifer Rivera Galindo, are completing their applications to this organization, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Brookings Institution, HACU National Internship Program and UPS’ Public Affairs team.
The seminar was a collaboration between FIU in DC, Campus Life, and the Honors College. Recordings of select sessions are available on YouTube.
Learn more about FIU in DC Fly-In Seminars.
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.