JWU Maximizes Student Success By Partnering With The Washington Center

Career-focused education— the weaving of practice with academic preparation — has been the core of JWU curricula for over 100 years. Since no other university has the history that JWU does in this area, a partnership with The Washington Center (TWC), a self-described “bridge between higher education and professional careers,” is a natural fit.

JWU students earn academic credit through TWC’s immersive internships and academic seminars with presenters who are working at the forefront of their fields. An impressive array of relevant, highly placed thinkers and practitioners impart career advice, reflect on how they built their careers, and immerse attendees into their profession. They explain how students can become interns and offer suggestions such as what to mention in cover letters and interviews so students can set themselves apart from the competition. Many of these top-notch speakers give students their contact information and follow up with them to explore career options and areas of concentration in particular fields.

TWC also offers networking nights where students meet alumni who have jobs in a variety of fields. In fact, many guest speakers are TWC alumni who say that being a participant put them on a course to working in the highest levels of their profession. Normally these events are in person in Washington, D.C., but this year’s pandemic necessitated a switch to Zoom.

National security was the topic of TWC’s weeklong spring seminar. Each day featured a national security topic (national security; state security; domestic extremism; law liberty and human rights; and the future of security) with plenary sessions, small group discussions, and educational briefings from some of the top national security experts in the world. These speakers work at the highest levels of government, research and nonprofit think tanks and included a former White House cyber executive, a former congressman, former secretaries of the military, and staff who worked within the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, Capitol Police, and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Besides learning how to assess threats, students discovered how Russian social media campaigns of disinformation work and the models needed to counter them. They also learned how the U.S. responds to the radicalization of different sectors of the American electorate, cyberattacks and breaches, domestic and foreign terrorism, and even climate change. The seminar opened students’ eyes to a variety of career opportunities that they had never known about or considered before.

How TWC Seminars Work

Each morning begins with a summary of the day’s theme and its significance, followed by guest speaker sessions. In the afternoon, students develop and ask questions of experts in educational briefings with their faculty leaders. The day ends with small group discussions of what students learned during the day that impacted their thinking and what different perspectives they hadn’t considered.

Faculty leader Kevin DeJesus, Ph.D., a JWU associate professor, facilitated discussion between the professionals and students from JWU and Hofstra University, among others. These students interacted and learned not only from the experts, but from each other. Hofstra’s Dean Meena Bose, a former program leader and developer of nonpartisan TWC courses, was so impressed that she requested Hofstra students be assigned to DeJesus.

Students reflect on these discussions through a daily writing assignment. At the seminar’s completion, they conduct an independent research project regarding the topic they found most important and write a paper that pursues it in more detail. This project and paper can be used as a writing sample for graduate school or documentation to show particular areas of specialization to employers — ultimately setting these participants apart from other applicants.

With access to a diverse array of top-notch professionals and leaders in their fields, students build the confidence to engage directly with speakers of this caliber and are motivated and excited about career opportunities in their future. Through a value-added education in action, students gain knowledge and skills that are relevant, resourceful and vital, which translates into highly satisfying careers and well-paying jobs that offer a return on investment.

JWU Students Shine

All JWU students asked speakers in-depth questions and demonstrated a level of engagement and professional participation that exemplifies their caliber as students.

JWU alum Zachary BilodeauTWC selected Zachary Bilodeau ’21, a JWU criminal justice major, as a student representative of the day. He facilitated morning Q&A and engaged directly with the faculty director and the day’s speakers, who were impressed by his professionalism, humor, depth of knowledge and engaging approach.

Bilodeau, a 15-year member of the Army National Guard and a police officer in Foster, Rhode Island, plans to continue his education to advance in law enforcement or intelligence with the state. “You’re given a baseline set of tools when you enter military or law enforcement, but it’s your responsibility to build upon those tools. That’s what TWC does; it gets you to add to your toolbox and see things from a different echelon than where you are now.”

‘Where you are now’ doesn’t have to be on the road to the topic’s profession. Students from all majors benefit from TWC’s cutting-edge programming, no matter the subject. Ryan DeVivo ’24, a JWU media and communication major, was interested in learning about homeland security, even though it’s not his chosen career field. “I want to start my own clothing brand and I think that some of the people I met could help me, connection wise. Everyone we spoke to is well known and high credentialed, so I can ask any question and I know they will answer.”

Garett Koch ’23, a JWU finance and accounting major, enrolled in TWC’s winter seminar, Inauguration 2021, which in non-pandemic years includes attendance at the Inauguration. With dreams of becoming a financial advisor, he sees value in understanding government due to its economic impact on people and businesses. In the seminar Koch learned about the U.S. election process, including security, ballot protection, and early, mail-in and in-person voting. He discovered how Congress works on a daily level, including how bills are passed and how lobbying works — lessons that will serve him well as he begins his next academic year as JWU’s Student Government Association president.

DeJesus calls JWU’s partnership with TWC “game changing. Working in my field for 20 years, I believe that this is one of the most powerful resources JWU has cultivated in its continual quest to provide students with the most practical and real-time engagement in their professions at all levels. At JWU, this practice-oriented approach really is a formula that works.”