Crown students leave trip to Washington, D.C. feeling ‘empowered’

Unique career development opportunity connects them with alumni, officials in field

For the past two decades, students at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice have spent part of Spring Break in Washington, D.C.—an immersive experience that allows them to explore career opportunities, network with alumni and meet with different agencies, regardless of their pathway or year of study.

This year, more than 25 students spent three days in the nation’s capital, as part of “Washington Week”—an opportunity that students said left them with a broader understanding of potential career paths and the feeling that their knowledge and training would enable them to enact real change.

“I feel truly empowered,” said Doria Qu, a first-year Social Sector Leadership student. “Seeing all these impactful people working in different federal government branches is convincing to me that I’m on the right track, and one day I could be as influential as them.”

During their time in Washington, students experienced real-life examples of how they can apply their knowledge and training to handle society’s most difficult problems by influencing change at the federal level.

“There is so much more to this degree in terms of things that you can do than I expected,” said Lilah Ravinuthala, a second-year Social Work student. “This is showing me an entirely different perspective of what I’m capable of.”

Meeting with alumni and officials

Several Crown Family School alumni working in the Washington, D.C., area met with students to host informational interviews and networking sessions. The tour began at the Department of Veterans Affairs, with White House Fellow and Crown Family School alum Mariah Sklyr. Bryan Smith and William Godwin, also White House fellows and both University of Chicago alumni, discussed how their focus on equity prepared them for senior roles in government.

At the Council of Institutional Investors, Research Manager and alum James Crowe spoke about how to make career tradeoffs. Peter Gaumond, senior policy analyst at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and president of the Crown Family School Alumni Association Board, described the world of federal government and implementing policy across agencies.

Students went to the Fairfax County Government building to meet alum and county Deputy Legislative Director Jennifer Van Ee. At the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, alum and Director of Cross-Sector Initiatives Abra Lyons-Warren offered insight on how to conduct a Washington D.C. job search from Chicago. Alum Maggie Quinn, associate deputy director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families also met with students. The National Association of Social Workers, the Department of Transportation and the White House, were also stops on the tour.

‘Excited for what’s the come’

Bisola-Mariam Obinyan, a first-year Social Work student, was inspired by the alumni’s career paths.

“Those who have gone through the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice and are currently doing incredible work in different fields,” Obinyan said.

Nia Lennan, a second-year Social Work student, was also inspired by the experiences and said she learned the possibilities for a social worker are endless. “I am excited for what’s to come,” Lennan said.

And while the week was focused on the Washington, D.C., area, the students saw an opportunity for their work to have a wide-ranging impact.

“My biggest takeaway of Washington Week 2024 is knowing that my education at Crown will open many doors of opportunities and inspiration not just in Washington, but around the world,” said Ben Zhang, a first-year Social Sector Leadership student.

Learn more about Washington Week on the Crown Family School website.

—Adapted from a story that was first published on the Crown Family School website.