Global Citizenship students get an insider’s look at Washington D.C.
By Mara Kievit
Students in Lehigh’s Global Citizenship Program were given the opportunity to experience how the U.S. government uses global perspectives in its day-to-day operations through a recent trip to Washington, D.C.
The two-day excursion, from Oct. 6-7, was packed with different information sessions and panel discussions, all of which were designed to give the students an idea of how global citizenship influences different branches of the government and plays a vital role in many jobs within the government.
Gisella Gisolo, director of the Global Citizenship Program, arranged the trip as part of her “Introduction to Global Citizenship” course, with the help of William D. Michalerya, , Lehigh’s associate vice president of the government relations and economic development.
In arranging the trip, Michalerya contacted the offices of Sen. Pat Toomey, Sen. Bob Casey, Rep. Charlie Dent and Lehigh alumnus and former assistant to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Richard Verma.
Michalerya said Dent’s office was able to secure a room in the Capitol visitor center where representatives from each office gathered for a discussion with the students. George McElwee, Chief-of-Staff for Dent, Christopher Gahan, Chief-of-Staff for Toomey, and Chloe Bowser, a member of Casey’s office staff, talked with the students in the latter part of their day.
The students began the day with a panel discussion at the Department of State organized by Jennifer Schaming-Ronan, Legislative Management Officer for the Department of State Bureau of Legislative Affairs. The panel was made up of officers within the Department of Legislative Affairs, and they discussed the institutional structure of the Department of State, the strict relationships that exist between the Department of State and Capitol Hill, career opportunities in both foreign and civil service and skills that students should work on if they are interested in a career with the U.S. Department of State.
Minh Trinh, the Global Citizenship Teaching Fellow who attended the trip, said this panel discussion was a good way to begin the trip, and it was also one of the most valuable parts of the trip. She said it gave the students an opportunity to see that what they are learning in their global citizenship classes applies to real work in the government.
Jessica Scott ’15, one of the Global Citizenship students, said she enjoyed the panel discussion because the speakers talked about the many career options that incorporated Global Citizenship. “I think the most valuable part of the trip was both hearing about what the different career options are and hearing that regardless of what major you are studying or what track you are on, there are career options for you,” Scott said.
After the panel discussion, the students traveled to the Capitol building where they had the opportunity to be introduced by Michalerya and to have lunch with the three congressional office staffers and Richard Verma.
Verma shared personal stories and memories from his experience as a Lehigh undergrad, and also discussed global issues such as the changing concerns for the United States with the emergence of new world powers such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey. Verma also advised the students to follow their passions in life and be good at what they do in order to become effective and successful global citizens.
McElwee explained his responsibilities as Chief-of-Staff for Dent. He also discussed the United States’ need to spend heavily on counter-terrorism in order for the country to remain safe within domestic grounds. McElwee also discussed U.S. involvement in international issues and the importance of investing in foreign policies and relations. He advised the students to always read and keep up to date with current global events.
Gahan spoke to the students about issues they are currently studying in their “Introduction to Global Citizenship” course. He talked about the role of diplomacy, the state department and foreign assistance, and also discussed the role of the private sector in complementing the role of the government in furthering global citizenship. Gahan also explained the Toomey’s role in the super-Committee, which is responsible for coming up with a solution to the government’s internal fiscal challenges.
Bowser was the last to speak to the students, and first explained her role and responsibilities as legislative correspondent in Casey’s office. She also spoke about the trip to Malaysia that the Global Citizenship students will be taking next year. Bowser said the U.S. government’s attention is currently on both the trade policies and human trafficking policies in that area of the world. Casey serves on several international sub-committees, such as the Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs and the East Asian and Pacific Affairs sub-committees.
Michalerya said the feedback he received from the staff who spoke to the students was very good. He said they thought the students were a very talented group of intellectuals, and they served as good representatives of the Lehigh community.