The Capital Semester Spring 2022 experience has come to a close. After an enriching four months in the nation’s capital, the 12 new TFAS alumni will take the lessons, advice and friendships they gained into the next stage of their lives. Classes, internships, mentorship, professional development and networking all contributed to an exciting and educational semester.
TFAS classes covered international economic policy and U.S. foreign policy. Students practiced their speech and debate skills during a public speaking workshop and a Braver Angels debate. They participated in internship seminars to dive into the lessons they gained from interning in D.C. Among their internship sites were senators’ offices, the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, Navajo Nation and many others.
Gabriela Peterson ’22 reflected on her experience as a whole and how her mindset changed from the beginning to the end of the semester.
“When I first arrived, I didn’t know how I would survive the semester,” she said. “D.C. was an unfamiliar and chaotic environment. Adapting rather quickly, I noticed the chaos contained a multitude of opportunities – professional, spiritual, friendships and new experiences at awe-inspiring places I didn’t even know existed.”
When I first arrived, I didn’t know how I would survive the semester…. Adapting rather quickly, I noticed the chaos contained a multitude of opportunities.” – Gabriela Peterson ’22
Another important element of the semester was the Mentorship Program, in which TFAS alumni served as mentors to the students. They met at the Mentor Breakfast in early February and worked together closely during the program. Mentors offered career advice, networking tips and insight into life as a working professional in Washington.
Ella Beutner ’22 shared the monumental impact of the mentorship program. She was paired with Gabriella Beaumont-Smith, a policy analyst in the Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute who is originally from England. Since Beutner is from Australia, she said it was useful to have another “outsider’s perspective” and that it helped strengthen their bond.
“For me the mentorship program was particularly life-changing,” she said. “[My mentor] was able to give me a lot of wonderful advice, not only about a future career in D.C., but what a future educational path might look like for me. Overall I found the program to be extremely valuable and one of the highlights of my TFAS experience.”
Throughout the semester, students learned about different career paths through various site briefings. TFAS alumni Rep. David Kustoff ’89 and Rep. David Rouzer ’93, ’94 shared their experience serving on the Hill in an exclusive congressional briefing, and students learned about other government work during a State Department briefing. They also participated in a Constitutional Leadership Seminar led by TFAS Grewcock Senior Scholar Dr. Don Devine.
Students embarked on fun excursions to round out their capital experience. With a day trip to Mount Vernon, a tour of the Woodrow Wilson House, ice skating in a sculpture garden, touring the monuments and visiting as many historic sites and museums as possible, Capital Semester students took advantage of everything the nation’s capital has to offer.
Closing Ceremony Celebration
TFAS celebrated the accomplishments of these students at the Closing Ceremony on April 28. Beutner, the class speaker, delivered a testimony of the program’s impact on her life. She described the semester as “jam-packed and fulfilling.” She surveyed her classmates in preparation for her speech to discover what the highlights of the program were for each of them. She shared how those answers perfectly encapsulated the diversity of their semester experiences.
What I couldn’t have known then, but am so happy to know now, is how life-changing a semester at The Fund for American Studies would truly be.” – Ella Beutner ’22
“What I couldn’t have known then, but am so happy to know now, is how life-changing a semester at The Fund for American Studies would truly be, both personally and professionally,” Beutner said. “This sharing of experiences is, for me, what is at the heart of the whole TFAS Journey.”
Jasmine Aguilera ’13 gave the keynote address. She shared about her own time in the D.C. Academic Internship program in the Journalism + Communications track and how TFAS prepared her for her career. She gave the students a compilation of sound advice for advancing in their personal and professional lives, and she encouraged them in their self-discovery and constant pursuit of learning and growth.
“It’s OK to experiment, to try new things, to fail and to start over from scratch,” Aguilera said. “It’s OK to move on, to do something else and to try something new. Don’t forget to keep learning and continue to pursue new avenues of learning. Be curious!”
After everyone’s remarks, TFAS Senior Director of Collegiate Programs Joe Starrs and Capital Semester Program Coordinator Abby McGovern presented awards and certificates to the students. Gabriela Peterson earned the Academic Excellence Award, and Evelyn Juanacio ’22 received the Outstanding Student Award.
Juanacio said she thoroughly enjoyed her time with TFAS. She gained insight and encouragement that helped her feel more prepared for life after college thanks to the hands-on internship experience. Though saying goodbye was difficult, she looks forward to the future.
“TFAS has been a wonderful experience!” she said. “I will miss TFAS and the amazing semester I had, but I’m happy to be joining such a great alumni community.”
Though the Capital Semester Spring 2022 experience has ended, it is not the end of the line for the students. One participant, Jonathan Reuss ’22, will return to TFAS this summer to participate in the Leadership + the American Presidency track of the D.C. Academic Internship Programs. All of the newly minted alumni will have access to the global TFAS Alumni Network and can stay involved through the facilitation and guidance of the new and improved Alumni Engagement Department.