Why are the values of economic freedom, intellectual curiosity and responsible governance necessary to instill in our nation’s policy leaders? How do TFAS continuing education programs contribute to the longevity of these values in our society today? D.C.-area alumni discussed these questions and shared the impact of the TFAS Journey on their professional development during a panel discussion in Washington, D.C.
Through fellowships and academic seminars, TFAS continuing education programs engage alumni throughout their professional careers. During the panel, alumni Melanie Benit ’14, ’15, PPF ’18, Clara Jace ’16 and Kevin Seifert ’06, PPF ’11, explored how these programs provide a network and means to be lifelong students of American principles.
Moderator and TFAS Continuing Education Programs Director Brenda Hafera began the discussion by asking the alumni to reflect on their most impactful TFAS experiences. Kevin Seifert ’06, PPF ’11, a senior advisor to Former House Speaker Paul Ryan and chief operating officer of At Ease Advisors, said that a trip to Gettysburg during the first weekend of his Public Policy Fellowship better connected him with his peers and the TFAS network.
We walked away with this bond that really set the tone for the entire year… It created this network of people who are all going through the same experiences and trying to figure out how to make an impact in this city, and how to develop skills and talents to ultimately advance the things that they feel so passionately about.” – Kevin Seifert ’06, PPF ’11
The alumni also discussed the impact that TFAS professors had on them as they were navigating the young professional world and discerning their academic interests. Clara Jace ’16 said that having TFAS Academic Director Dr. Anne Bradley as a mentor is what ultimately led her to pursue a Ph.D. in economics at George Mason University.
“I was able to meet Anne Bradley for coffee and to talk about opportunities of studying economics at the graduate level and getting my Ph.D. at George Mason,” Jace said. “There are not many programs that provide role models in the same way that TFAS has… Being able to reconnect after the summer with someone that I saw as a role model was really important to me.”
One of the most salient panel topics was on the issue of civility in politics today. As the activism manager at the Institute for Justice (IJ), Melanie Benit ’14, ’15, PPF ’18, works toward defeating the abuse of power in our government today. Much of this work involves building relationships with people on both sides of the aisle. Benit said that her TFAS Public Policy Fellowship helped her to understand the importance of engaging in civil discourse on controversial topics in today’s political climate.
“Some people say that civility is just another way of saying ‘political correctness.’ It’s not. Political correctness is more of a force, right? You have to say these things because you are socially obligated to say or not to say,” Benit explained. “Civility is different. You can [say these things], it just means you shouldn’t. It means that as a human being, you should use and select words that don’t completely remove yourself from the person next to you … The beauty of civility is that you can have disagreements, but you can say it in a way that doesn’t alienate the person next to you, and that’s how you have compromise. I think we’re so polarized today because we can’t talk to each other civilly.”
Thank you to all of our alumni for sharing your valuable insights with us for this panel. TFAS is proud to play a continuing role in your professional development. To learn more about TFAS continuing education programs, watch the panel below or visit TFAS.org/Alumni/Continuing-Education.