Monday January 5th marked our first day of classes for us Washington Winter Seminar folks. We started the day off by meeting at the Ronald Reagan Building before walking over to USAID next door to meet with a number of speakers, three of which are alumnus of the College – Sarah Lane, Shanley Pinchotti, and Kathryn Garcia. What was so great about this particular meeting was how different all their jobs are. Sarah Lane is currently the division chief for private sector engagement in the Bureau of Food Security, Shanley Pinchotti is a foreign service officer who works primarily as a democracy and governance backstop and was most recently in Russia, and Kathryn Garcia is an economist who works primarily in the interpretation of cost-benefit analysis for a variety of proposed programs within the agency. All three women were very intelligent, passionate, and inspiring. Hearing their stories about how they all ended up at USAID and why they chose their specific career paths were independent and original, but they all came to agree on one major reason as to why they all felt compelled to pursue a career with USAID. They all believe that, on some level, they are all working to make the world a better place. It was moving to hear that these women, all working in completely different fields, discuss how sometimes their professions merge and that in the end they all have one common goal.
After our morning meeting, we headed to lunch at Brookings, where a few students saw Ben Bernanke grabbing lunch as well! In DC, it is apparently not uncommon to run into high-end government officials regularly – congressmen, executive staff members, and the like. The fact that this program exposes, albeit indirectly, us to such powerful people in Washington is a huge privilege. It just makes you stop to think about the fact that these big-name people have lots of power and influence, but they are also just regular people. Getting lunch, taking coffee breaks, and are just as human as the rest of us. It is always important to keep that in mind, because so often we lose sight of that fact.
When we were done at Brookings, we headed over to State Department to meet with five alumnus about their careers at State – they included a foreign service officer and those whose jobs regard human rights and human trafficking. Just as with our morning meeting, learning about their career paths and the discussions that arose were all very interesting and eye-opening. The entirety of it all really demystified what it actually means to be a government employee at State, as well as clarified what a typical career is like for a bureaucratic vs. diplomatic worker.