As an alumna of The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) and a career humanitarian, Sarah Dawn Petrin ’95 knows firsthand what it means to “go the extra mile” to succeed in the world.
“This is something you will need to do your whole life,” Petrin told students during the summer 2021 closing ceremony on July 29.
After participating in the Public Policy + Economics program track in 1995, the Maine native embarked on a decades-long career as a global humanitarian. She helped organizations like the United Nations and Red Cross enact change in more than 20 countries. After years of giving back to communities around the world, Petrin wrote the book “Bring Rain: Helping Humanity in Crisis,” which explores the lessons that have shaped her life.
“The book is based on one simple premise: the world needs you,” Petrin said. “Your work, as you go from Washington back to your home universities, can contribute significantly to the problems we face in the world today.”
In her keynote remarks, Petrin shared advice that she believes will “withstand the test of time” based on the challenges she has faced in her own life.
“Start making a difference, right where you are today,” Petrin encouraged the summer cohort. “You do not have to wait for the right job or the right salary to have an impact. By looking around you and doing something about the small problems you see each day, you will be preparing yourself to do even greater things in the days to come.”
Start making a difference, right where you are today. By looking around you and doing something about the small problems you see each day, you will be preparing yourself to do even greater things in the days to come.” – Sarah Dawn Petrin ’95
This theme is consistently reinforced through TFAS programs, which provide students with experiences that challenge their perspectives. United States Air Force Academy cadet Jack Erwin ’21 shared that this summer has transformed the way he thinks about the world. By participating in the Journalism + Communications track and interning at the Military Times, Erwin gained experience that he believes will bring him future success.
“For me, the program was really about changing the way I think, especially through my internship and the classes here,” Erwin said. “I got to have a lot of things I believe in challenged, which has definitely impacted my future.”
Another piece of advice Petrin shared was: “Be willing to take risks, but make sure they’re calculated ones.”
Petrin has years of experience in taking risks that lead to personal growth. A year after participating in the TFAS D.C. Summer Program, Petrin traveled to Senegal, West Africa, for an internship with the United Nations. She recounted the experience as one that illustrated the importance of challenging herself in new situations while remaining aware of her surroundings in a new environment.
Petrin believes that even a summer internship in Washington is a calculated risk because it encourages young leaders to step out of their comfort zone. By affording young adults from around the world the opportunity to live, learn and intern in the nation’s capital, TFAS programs provide a way for future leaders to challenge themselves.
“Even living in a place like Washington, D.C., has its risks. Leaving home to face the unknown, not knowing where you will live or who you will meet can be intimidating and it takes courage,” Petrin said. “But being willing to step out of your comfort zone can open new opportunities. Be open to a new job or position that stretches you and takes you in a new direction.”
Throughout the summer, program participants met with business leaders, policy experts, world-class journalists and economists to explore a variety of career paths. Petrin encouraged students to seek out “alternate routes” when the job search gets frustrating.
“There is more than one way to get where you want to go and there is more than one path to your career success,” Petrin said. “Be open to opportunities for growth and change.”
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Charlotte Geier ’21 participated in the Journalism + Communications track and interned with Special Olympics this summer. Already following Petrin’s advice, Geier shared that being a part of the TFAS Network has encouraged her to pursue future career ambitions.
TFAS has been conducive to helping me get to where I want to be in my career. Having people around me that have been nothing but supportive and excited to help me be successful in the future has been very encouraging.” – Charlotte Geier ’21
“TFAS has been conducive to helping me get to where I want to be in my career,” Geier said. “Having people around me that have been nothing but supportive and excited to help me be successful in the future has been very encouraging.”
TFAS is grateful for alumni like Petrin who continually share their time and talents to support the next generation of TFAS leaders. After completing the eight-week program in D.C., young leaders from around the world joined more than 46,000 alumni in the TFAS Alumni Network. To learn more about the summer program, visit TFAS.org/SummerRecap21.