When 13 Capital Semester students graduated from TFAS on April 29, they certainly had plenty to reflect back on from their 15 weeks in the nation’s capital – courses on economics, journalism and public policy, site visits to presidential estates, embassies and the FBI, full-time internships and even a historic blizzard that shut down the city. But perhaps the most lasting impact will be the personal transformations the students experienced during their semester with TFAS.
Capital Semester student Haley Britzky (CSS 16) noted this transformation during her testimonial remarks at the Closing Ceremony. She shared that each of her fellow classmates were able to leave their old “labels” back home and take on “new identities as Capital Semester interns.”
“These new identities weren’t forged on our own – we needed help, and we got it from the most impressive group of people I’ve personally ever come across,” Britzky said.
Britzky is a journalism student at Texas Tech University, and this semester she interned at The Hill newspaper. During her remarks, she also credited her TFAS professors – Dr. Anne Bradley, ProfessorKaren Czarnecki (ICPES 82), Dr. John Samples and Professor Richard Benedetto – as well as staff members from TFAS and partner organization, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, for helping her and her fellow students grow this semester.
“Daily, these individuals helped stretch our understanding while challenging our self-inflicted limitations,” she said.
Outside of the classroom, Britzky said the students were able to grow as professionals through the site briefings, guest lectures and their individual internship experiences.
“We were pushed outside of our comfort zones constantly,” Britzky said. “We grew stronger because this city demands it. We learned things about ourselves that – had we not lived here – we may have never learned.”
TFAS Constitutional Interpretation Professor John Samples also spoke to guests on behalf of the faculty. Samples shared some of the lessons the students learned throughout the course and spoke about the importance of listening to differing opinions.
“What I think you should take from this course is that everyone disagreed sometimes, but the course went along fine,” Samples said. “I would ask you to remember what you learned in this course, and if you don’t remember everything, remember that you always got along with each other, even when you disagreed.”
One student who benefitted from Professor Samples’ teaching was Jerel Ballard (CSS 16), a junior at Columbia College Chicago. Following the ceremony, Ballard shared why Constitutional Interpretation was his favorite course from the semester.
“I have a love for the Constitution, so the Constitutional Interpretation course gave me a lot more respect and understanding for how the nation runs, why the Constitution is so important and how things happen here in Washington,” Ballard said.
TFAS Alumni Council chair and member of the TFAS Board of Regents, Ken Klatt (ICPES 70), of counsel at Sapronov & Associates, served as the keynote speaker during the ceremony. Klatt offered his advice to the students and congratulated them on their many achievements.
During his remarks, Klatt offered up three “principles” that the students could follow to help them succeed professionally and personally throughout their lives:
“1. Do the right thing. – You don’t need a code of ethics to tell you what’s right and wrong. Find a place with a work culture that encourages this.
2. Do the best you can with what you have in the time allowed. – Find the right fit for your strengths, and do what you like to do.
3. Treat people nicely and care for others. – When you have the chance to share and teach, pay it forward.”
After giving this advice, Klatt shared more about his TFAS alumni experience, his 1970 classmates and thanked TFAS for its support over the years. He encouraged the new alumni to stay connected with one another and get involved with their local TFAS chapters around the world.
“I have really enjoyed TFAS as a student and as an alumnus,” Klatt said. “TFAS has been really great for me personally and professionally over the years.”
Following his remarks, U.S. Programs Director Joseph Starrs and Capital Semester Coordinator Matthew Phister (ICPES 13) presented the students with the graduation certificates, officially welcoming them into the TFAS alumni network.
Congratulations to the following Capital Semester Spring 2016 alumni for receiving achievement awards during the Closing Ceremony:
Academic Excellence in Journalism – Christopher Julius, University of Colorado Denver, Internship: The Roosevelt Group
Academic Excellence in Public Policy – Marianne March, Georgia State University, Internship: Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Overall Award for Academic Excellence: Samuel Rostow, The University of Connecticut, Internship: The Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA)
Director’s Award for Outstanding Overall Performance – Friedl Nugent, University of the Ozarks, Internship: Peace Corps
To learn more about this semester’s class, read their “mid-semester check-in” story and hear some of the students’ firsthand TFAS experiences.
To view photos from this semester, please visit TFAS.org/photos.