From the Peace Corps to the Pentagon, Students Explore International Affairs Over Break

The Rosenfield Program brings students out of the classroom to delve into international affairs in Washington, D.C., as part of the College’s globally informed, inquiry-led curriculum.

April 02, 2019

Sixteen students devoted a week of spring break to learning about international affairs outside of the classroom during the International Affairs Study Tour in Washington, D.C.

The tour provided students with opportunities to hear firsthand from alumni and other professionals in the field about a wide array of topics, including international diplomacy, trade, development aid, defense, arms control, and media.

The Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights organized the tour in partnership with Maureen Fitzgibbon, director of the Government and Social Service Community at the Center for Careers, Life, and Service.

“I am always amazed by the generosity of our alumni – and others even unconnected to the College — who make the Rosenfield Program’s study tours such successes,” says Barb Trish, director of the Rosenfield Program and professor of political science.

“I’ll speak for everyone on the tour,” Trish continues, “saying that we all have a much deeper understanding of the international affairs ecosystem that marks Washington, D.C., and an appreciation for the work our alumni do in the interest of public service, not to mention what it’s like on the ground [from the subway to the corridors of power] in the nation’s capital.”

The study tour turned out to be an ideal spring break activity for April Park ’19, a political science major from Suwon-Si, South Korea.  

“Many of the alums emphasized skill transferability and utilization of already-acquired skills to go beyond our comfort zone,” Park says. “As much as I have heard this over my four years at Grinnell, the repeated emphasis made me appreciate once again all the experiences and opportunities I’ve been fortunate to have at Grinnell.

 Students talk about international development and finance with Jon Rose ’95, lead economist at the Inter-American Development Bank.
Students talk about international development and finance with Jon Rose ’95, lead economist at Inter-American Development Bank.

“As a senior with only six weeks till graduation, this trip left me with both relief and inspiration,” she adds. “The trip reaffirmed that even though it is completely acceptable to feel lost, anxious, and ambiguous about my post-graduation future, there are inspiring connections of people to reach out to who are approachable and willing to listen, and help you in one way or another.”

The first stop on the tour was the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency that serves as Congress’ watchdog. Other highlights of the tour included discussions with:

  • Senior Advisor Kathlyn Rohrbaugh ’91 at Peace Corps Headquarters, where Rohrbraugh arranged for Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen to stop by to chat with the group;
  • Antonio DiMarco ’18, a research analyst at The Cadmus Group, a consultancy striving to help solve the world’s most challenging problems;
  • Albright Stonebridge Group Senior Advisor Ken Hyatt, father of Brendan Hyatt ’21;
  • Swedish embassy officials at the House of Sweden;
  • Grinnell Trustee George Moose ’66 at the U.S. Institute of Peace;
  • Deqa Aden ’18, a monitor and evaluation analyst at the World Bank;
  • Arms Control Association Board Member Greg Thielmann ’72, a former top intelligence analyst for the Department of State; and
  • The New York Times journalists Michael Tackett, who writes about national politics; David Sanger, national security correspondent; and Mark Landler, White House correspondent.
Students with New York Times journalists Michael Tackett, David Sanger, and Mark Landler at the newspaper’s Washington Bureau.
Students gain perspective on national media from New York Times journalists Michael Tackett, David Sanger, and Mark Landler.

“What I saw in D.C. is directly translatable to my experiences and perceptions from Grinnell,” says Reece Downey ’21, a political science major from Indianola, Iowa. “Reading a New York Times article may now resonate with me in a different tone, now that I’ve had the chance to transcribe personalized quotes from David Sanger.”

Downey also says he’s still reflecting on the whirlwind tour: “The study tour taught me a week’s worth of lessons that I am still working through and digesting. As well as exploring Washington itself, connecting with the vast D.C. alumni network gave me glimpses into a future role that I could pursue in representing both Grinnell and my country in a fulfilling and honorable manner.

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