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TFAS Students Reflect on Life-Changing Summer in the Nation’s Capital

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“You’re taking the road less traveled.” That was the message President Roger Ream ’76 gave as he imparted final wisdom to TFAS graduates at the Closing Ceremony on July 28, 2022, at George Mason University.

“This summer, each one of you took a road less traveled by. You chose to come to TFAS, come to the nation’s capital to live, learn and intern. Few if any of your classmates took this road. Now it is up to each one of you to ensure that it makes all the difference.”

The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) hosted more than 200 students from around the world in the 2022 TFAS D.C. Summer Program. As a class, more than 1200 credits were earned, students interned at more than 185 internship sites and students attended more than 160 guest lectures.

Five TFAS students represented their program tracks to share testimony and reflect on their eight-week life-changing summer of living, learning, interning and connecting in the nation’s capital.

LIVE

Bence Szabo ’22 and his new TFAS friends at the White House.

Coming from a small town in Hungary, Bence Szabo ’22 was eager to participate in the Public Policy and Economics program so he could return home with the skills and knowledge he would need to represent his country in the near future. As a recent graduate from the Budapest Business School, he is currently a scholar at Mathias Corvinus Collegium, one of Hungary’s top talent management institutes. He was selected to participate in the TFAS program as Széll Kálmán Public Policy Fellow, a special fellowship sponsored by the Hungary Foundation.

Szabo’s TFAS experience taught him to that he has the power to create change within his community.

“If we are the leaders of the future, we must live up to our potential, assume responsibility, and give something back to our communities,” he said. Szabo urged his classmates to be the change they wish to see and to live up to their full potential.

Laurel Holley ’22 at the United States Institute of Peace.

“If my hometown finds me worthy to serve them as mayor in the future, I can honestly say that I owe an incredible thanks to Washington and the U.S,” Szabo said as he reflected on his time at TFAS.

LEARN

A major component of the TFAS experience is students taking rigorous courses in government, politics and economics at George Mason University. International Affairs student Laurel Holley ’22 shared how her experience learning from from Professor Candela, Professor Czarnecki, and from a United States Institute of Peace briefing taught her the significance of economic independence and stability, the value of collaboration, and the imperative of viewing one another as human.

A rising sophomore from Duke University, Holley is passionate about conflict resolution and national security. She credits TFAS for the opportunity to learn inside and outside the classroom within her areas of interest.

Isaac Lopez ’22 and his TFAS peers at C-SPAN.

“It’s our responsibility as the next generation of leaders, political or otherwise, to carry forth this message of acceptance, to work for an America and a world where everyone is valued,” Holley added in her closing remarks.

INTERN

Student Isaac Lopez ’22 is a rising junior at California Polytechnic State University who is passionate about increasing agricultural literacy in his own community.

During his time as an intern at Voto Latino, he helped plan their annual power summit, set up and sat in on meetings with sponsors and helped organize panel partnerships with numerous coalitions around the U.S.

“When I first applied to the Leadership and the American Presidency track, my main goal was to learn more about civic engagement and how I could mobilize others in my community,” he said. “Both the LTAP track and my internship allowed me to accomplish this goal.”

Esther Wickham ’22 at a White House briefing.

Esther Wickham ’22 a Journalism + Communications program student from The Kings College shared her hands-on experience as an intern at the Washington Examiner. She had the chance to write more than 40 articles on a wide range of topics such as politics, economics, culture and policy. She even attended a White House press briefing and had one of her articles featured on Fox News and Business Insider.

“My internship summer in D.C. with TFAS has taught me that no matter my age, experience or being considered ‘the intern’ I can still accomplish my goals if I set before myself, if I simply go for it,” Wickham said.

CONNECT

Tabitha Akoto ’22 and her classmates at the TFAS Scholarship Dinner.

Tabitha Akoto ’22, a rising junior at Purdue University participated in the Business + Government Relations program. She shared how she was able to create meaningful relationships with her mentor, supervisors and peers. It was surprising to her at first that the people she looked up to would take the time out of their day to meet with her even though she was only a student. She learned that if she took the time to get to know them, then they would do the same.

Some of her most treasured moments during her internship was simply having lunch with her supervisors while they shared their travel experiences.

Anne Bradley challenged students to think with economic mindset.

“Take the time to truly get to know people for who they are rather than solely what they do,” Akoto said in her final remarks.

Dr. Anne Bradleythe George and Sally Mayer Fellow and Vice President of Academic Affairs at TFAS said her farewell to students while encouraging them to fight for economic, human and political freedom if they want to see a change in the world. As future leaders, she urged students to approach difficult problems in the world with an economic mindset. To accomplish this, they must pursue it with curiosity and humility to truly understand how to create change.

Keynote speaker, Peter Feldman ’04, ’07, a commissioner for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission closed out the commencement by sharing the founding of TFAS and how it impacted his future. His speech largely focused on Alexis de Tocqueville whom he learned about while participating in TFAS. He credited Tocqueville for being one of the first people to recognize the uniqueness of American Civil Society and how his observation is still relevant to this day.

Peter Feldman shared how his TFAS experience got him to where he is today.

Through Feldman’s experience serving on the US. Senate Commerce Committee, Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Product Safety Commission, he was working on similar nongovernmental, voluntary organizations as Tocqueville. He reminded students that everything is connected and that their background with TFAS will enable them to have the same influence.

As the D.C. Summer Program has come to an end, it is only the beginning of a new era for these bright and passionate students. We look forward to working with these young leaders as they embark on their next journey to change the world.

Watch the full video of the Closing Ceremony below.

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