Thanks to generous support from TFAS alumni, donors, volunteers, and friends, the U.S. Programs team at TFAS took the necessary steps to ensure that our 2020 fall programs would continue to instill the principles of liberty and leadership in young leaders from around the world – both virtually and in person – despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. TFAS faculty and staff joined Capital Semester students to celebrate this successful fall program during the 2020 closing ceremony on Tuesday, November 24.
The efforts and all the activities planned by TFAS were very much appreciated by each and every one of us, and I think I speak for all of the students here today when I say: thank you, TFAS!” – Fall TFAS student Tiffanie Oduber ’20
ADAPTING TO NEW NORMS
After quickly adapting our 2020 summer programs to a fully-virtual format, TFAS decided to create a hybrid fall program that would allow students to participate in both in-person and virtual courses, internships, networking events, guided tours and site briefings across D.C. This specially-designed experience gave students the opportunity to live, learn and intern in the nation’s capital while ensuring their health and safety. The Fall 2020 Capital Semester program proved that, despite challenges, TFAS can still effectively carry out our mission of educating the next generation of responsible leaders.
Over the course of the semester, students participated in more outdoor events than a typical semester, including a tour of the Woodrow Wilson House’s “Suffrage Outside” exhibit and a walking tour of the National Mall and Capitol Hill, learning the history of each D.C. landmark.
In between their internships with D.C.-area think tanks, congressional offices and nonprofit organizations, students attended courses at George Mason University in government and economics. They also had both virtual and in-person access to the TFAS Mentor Program this semester, which connected students with professional mentors in their career areas of interest.
TFAS Director of U.S. Programs Joe Starrs shared that this semester’s success proved that TFAS’s transformative programs can quickly be adapted to fit any climate.
“For the Fall Capital Semester program, we wanted to provide students the best programming possible in D.C. while still maintaining their health and safety,” Starrs said. “Our ability to adapt this program to COVID-19 restrictions has really proven that our team is equipped to deliver no matter the circumstances.”
ENGAGING IN CIVIL DISCOURSE
TFAS student Tiffanie Oduber ’20 reflected on her semester with TFAS as she shared remarks with the cohort during this year’s closing ceremony. Oduber said having the opportunity to live with her classmates and explore their new city together made for an exciting adventure, despite obstacles posed by COVID-19 restrictions.
“It is incredible to experience our growth in friendship and in knowledge during this time,” Oduber said. “All the virtual briefings were very enlightening, and being able to live near the Capitol definitely gave us an experience of a lifetime.”
Oduber thanked each of her classmates for the memories they made during the semester, emphasizing the respect they gained for each other through learning about their different political beliefs and cultural backgrounds.
“I am particularly grateful for all the political debates that we had because it made me realize I registered for the wrong party,” Oduber shared. “The efforts and all the activities planned by TFAS were very much appreciated by each and every one of us, and I think I speak for all of the students here today when I say: thank you, TFAS!”
THE TFAS IMPACT
The ceremony also featured remarks from TFAS President Roger Ream ’76, TFAS Academic Director Dr. Anne Bradley, Chairman Randal Teague, and a keynote address from alumna Lois Goh ’13.
In her remarks, Goh shared actionable takeaways with students about the TFAS experience, encouraging them to always look towards creativity when solving problems.
“Engage in creative problem solving when a task seems insurmountable,” Goh urged students. “If it’s difficult at first, start out with solving smaller problems creatively before moving on to large issues. This progressive process of problem solving helps you build tenacity in solving issues.”
TFAS student Sydney Rockwell ’20 emphasized the impact the program has had on her problem-solving capabilities, and also shared that it taught her to take charge in establishing a professional network.
“The program encouraged us to be proactive and to seek out additional opportunities and connections to further our education both in and out of the classroom,” Rockwell said. “These personal and professional connections that I was able to make in the Capital Semester program are invaluable, and through the experience I had living and learning with my fellow TFAS program participants, I developed what I hope to be lifelong friendships.”
For more information on the 2020 Fall Capital Semester hybrid program, visit TFAS.org/FallCS2020. To see more photos and highlights from the semester, watch the video below.