All graduates participated in Washington Week as students.
- Jarred A. Butto, A.M. '07
- Charles G. Curie, A.M. ‘79
- Briana Davis, A.M. '18
- Kate Englund, A.M. ‘11
- Amanda Flott, A.M. ‘11
- Kate Fritz, A.M. '12
- Veronica Garcia, A.M. '14
- Kara Lang Guminski, A.M. '13
- Jessica Hagar, A.M. '13
- Leora Hudak, A.M. '14
- Nadeen Israel, A.M. ’10
- Ashley Jackson, A.M. ‘11
- Elizabeth M. Johnson, A.M. ‘11
- Lynn S. Kim, A.M. ’97
- Anna Nicole Kreisberg, A.M. '13
- Jennifer Lyons, A.M. '12
- Molly McAndrew, A.M. ‘13
- Jennifer McNabb, A.M. ’03
- James Miner, A.M. ’09
- Carolyn Moore, A.M. '12
- Tim Mudd, A.M. ‘11
- Kirstin Noe, A.M. ‘11
- Neelam J. Patel, A.M. ‘05
- Colette Pezley, A.M. '16
- Matt Raffol, A.M. '12
- Rebecca Rust, A.M. ’09
- Elizabeth Sanchez, A.M. '16
- Charlotte Sall, A.M. '19
- Rachel Schmidt, A.M. '16
- Jessica N. Shah, A.M. ’10
- Sharon Shoham, A.M. ’07
- Melanie (Mimi) Singh, A.M. '18
- Elizabeth Sorice, A.M. '13
- Rachel Steele, A.M. '12
- Heather Tompkins, A.M. ’06
- Sara Wang, A.M. ’10
- David Watsula, A.M. '14
- Arielle Weston, A.M. '14
- Keith Witham, A.B. ’01, A.M. ’06
It is a distinct pleasure to have this opportunity to share some thoughts about the SSA Washington Week program with the students, faculty, and administration of our academic department. I have been involved with Washington Week as a second-year Master's student and, for several years now, as an alumni host and I have found my experiences to be both informative and immensely gratifying. I feel strongly that this program provides an unparalleled service to our community and that it has become a tradition worthy of nurture and preservation.
I can, in many ways, attribute my success in finding my current position as Senior Program Specialist for International Initiatives at the American Council on Education to the care and dedication that Michael Jogerst brings to the Washington Week program. His guidance during the weeklong event and in pre-departure orientation sessions as well as his careful coordination of alumni information sessions was essential to my ability to establish connections that paid dividends as I began my job search in Washington, D.C. Michael also made himself available even after I had graduated from SSA and continued to provide direction, encouragement, and a much needed (and strongly worded) dose of reality when my motivation and confidence began to waiver.
During my SSA supported trip to Washington as a student, I had the opportunity to meet with 12 different alumni working in a multitude of fields across the capital including government, the private sector, and the non-profit and association worlds. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to shadow an SSA alumnus at the US Department of Labor (where I serendipitously met the former Assistant Secretary of Labor and wound up in a private meeting with him). I was also able to formulate professional connections with a number of SSA alumni with whom I maintained contact during my second-year course work and throughout my job search. After graduation I traveled to D.C. several times and met one on one with these individuals to discuss their own career trajectories and the wide array of opportunities in the D.C. metropolitan region. Many of these alumni helped to circulate my resume, introduced me to colleagues, and forwarded me postings for positions in which they thought I might have an interest. One of the positions forwarded was an entry level opening at the American Council on Education where I have been employed since my graduation from SSA. Without a doubt the most valuable part of my Washington Week experience was this opportunity to network and formulate relationships with like-minded alumni who were not only willing to assist me, but also invested in my success.
Over the past three years it has brought me great pleasure to serve as an alumni host of SSA students during Washington Week, to meet the brightest minds entering the filed, and to play a role, however small, in guiding their progress. As the recipient of such generous consideration and assistance from alumni during my time as a student I feel "obligated by karma" to make myself available to my SSA classmates and colleagues. I look forward to hosting students each year and I find it rewarding to maintain my connection to the SSA community in a way that is both participatory and engaged. I will continue to do so as long as the opportunity is presented.
Washington Week is now very much a tradition that brings together current students with alumni in a meaningful way. It is challenging for alumni to stay in touch with their graduate school and it is wonderful that Washington Week provides the opportunity for us to share with current students "the lay of the land" for Social Work in D.C..
Concretely, it has even ended up being an opportunity to recruit high quality professionals looking for policy or practice opportunities within the Federal Government. As an alumnus, I am also greatly inspired each year to see the talent, intelligence, commitment, passion and enthusiasm of the students. It helps me stay motivated (and feel a bit younger too!).
When I made the decision to attend Washington Week, I had no intention of moving to Washington, D.C. or getting involved in politics at all. I was simply interested in meeting alumni, hearing about their career paths and ultimately getting a better idea of what I might be able to do with my degree upon graduation. Not only did I do all of that, but I met alumni who shared ideas for career opportunities that I'd never have thought I could pursue with a social work degree. I received candid and practical advice about job hunting and invaluable tips for "selling" my SSA degree to future potential employers. I also made connections with alumni who genuinely want to help in any way that they can. It was great to see how connected they've stayed to the SSA community.
In addition to the professional and career development and networking opportunities, I also really enjoyed having an opportunity to get to know more current SSA students. There were a number of people I'd never met before the trip and when we kept arriving at the same alumni sessions it was clear that we had some similar interests. It's easy to stay within your cohort in the first year, and I'm glad that Washington Week gave me a chance to expand my network not only in D.C., but here in Chicago as well.
Washington Week opened my eyes to job possibilities that I didn't even know existed. I was skeptical that Washington Week would offer me very many relevant contacts since I want to go into international work, but I found that SSA has managed to create a helpful network of people who can connect you to other people working in the D.C. area.
I found every presentation interesting, informative, and helpful for me to reflect on my own SSA experience, the goals I have for my second year at SSA, and how I want to apply the social work skills I am learning now to a future career. I highly recommend for students to go in their first year so that they can reflect on how they want to use their SSA degree and the possibilities their education is opening for them. I can now go into my second year armed with multiple business cards of people I am totally comfortable contacting to help me in the job search process.
Thanks for everything you do to continue making Washington Week happen!
The Washington Week trip is by far the most beneficial program that I have had the opportunity to participate in since starting SSA last fall. As a first year student, I planned to attend simply to figure out what jobs were most interesting and a good fit for me in the future. What I got out of this experience in the end was so much more than that. Professional contacts/mentors, internships, job offers, candid informal interviews, and a variety of leads to follow up on for future careers or roles of interest to me, were just a few of the immediate benefits from my experience on this trip.
I would highly recommend it to EVERY first year student at the school interested in learning more about jobs that are available outside of the stereotyped direct service work so commonly associated with our field. This was particularly useful to me as an administrative student, where future jobs in social work aren't so defined. This experience opened my eyes to a new realm of career possibilities and people who are eager and motivated to find a place for me in their work place. I came to SSA with a very narrow focus and personal agenda for my studies and my future career. After meeting with so many dynamic alumni, in so many different roles, I have not only further enhanced my focus, but also found former students who share my same focus and currently work in that area now. I plan on continuing and using the relationships I was able to form with these SSA graduates to benefit not only my future career planning, but also my hopes of getting a job immediately after graduation in a place that is a great fit for me next June.
Overall, I think this is one of the best programs available to network, discuss, and learn about future opportunities available within our field of social work first hand from the people who are doing them. It's just a ridiculously wonderful bonus that those same people already have something in common with you; that being, we are all apart of a larger University of Chicago SSA family and just like in a real family we take care of each other. Thanks again for all your hard work to make this a reality. I really can't thank you enough!
If I could summarize my Washington Week experience in just a few words, I would definitely say it was an exceptional opportunity to glimpse what types of work my degree from SSA can help me access. While the week was a whirlwind and flew by with great speed, I have distinct memories of each meeting and each alumnus.
I am an administration student with a focus on community development and non-profit management, so I wasn’t certain about the applicability of a trip to WashingtonDC (which I saw as mainly a hub for politicos and policy wonks). When I saw the list of available alumni and their job descriptions, however, I began to see where my interests could fit just as easily into DC as any other city. Michael did a great job of gathering alums with a variety of job types and a good mix of government and non-profit positions. I had never considered working in government, but after discussions with alums and their informative viewpoints, I now have an entirely new range of options for applying my degree to a career.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of Washington Week was the sense of community I felt with the alumni. Not only does a degree from SSA equip me for entering the field of Social Service Administration, but it also places me at the center of a large network of fellow graduates who want to support the SSA community and assist new alums in any way they can. When I returned back to Chicago after Washington Week, I felt I had opened the door to this network and really begun the journey into my career.
Attending Washington Week was a first for me in a lot of ways. It was the first time I had ever visited Washington, DC; in addition to all the alumni meetings, navigating the metro system and seeing the sights were all new experiences. I believe this is an essential trip for students, whether they are clinical or administrative. It is critically important to be aware of how the creation and alteration of federal law impacts our work on a local scale. Social workers and the people they serve participate in multiple systems, which are often large and complex. As critical thinkers, it is imperative for us to analyze how our municipal and national systems have arrived to their current state and what effects these have on our clients. All of the alumni I met gave adept, complete answers and imparted warm, welcoming, and passionate personalities. We all know “burn out” is a common phrase in social work, and while in the SSA program, we’re all very excited to jump-start or continue our careers. It was so refreshing to see that same excitement about work, social change, and dedication to excellence in people who had finished their education and were working, some for many years.
I can’t say enough how valuable this experience is. Even if you don’t plan to move to DC after graduation or in your future, I engaged in such interesting conversations with the alumni. It was a beautiful mix of opinions and different personal experiences, and it’s really nice to build your contacts, even if they are not local. The world is a small place, and you can stay connected with people no matter where you live. Especially for female students, this is a great opportunity. Some of us, if we have children, may step out of the workplace for a couple years. This has a serious effect on getting back to the same level in our careers, so, build a network, and use it wisely. People like being for asked for help or assistance, especially in this field. :) Also, don’t be afraid or nervous! Everyone is so friendly and was in your shoes at one point. Remember, they’re just people, even though some have amazingly cool, high-level jobs. You can connect with ANYONE about something, whether it’s a hobby or current event. Use this as an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, practice communication skills - including listening and etiquette! - and to learn, learn, learn. My advice: go on Washington Week, be yourself, be curious, and have fun! You won’t regret it.
Washington Week was the best experience I have had as an SSA student. I was hesitant to attend, as I'm not graduating for another year. I'm glad I did, though; I've made some great friendships with other students and strong connections with alumni working in DC. I learned that there are unlimited possibilities linked to a Master's Degree from SSA. If you're a clinical student, don't be discouraged from attending. There are alumni there who are working in clinical positions who are willing to give insight and who are really quite wonderful. Washington Week is simply a golden opportunity to strengthen ties to the greater SSA community.
I just returned from DC where I attended CHANGE's Healthy Future Action Summit. It was amazing! I'm positive that one of the reasons I was selected to participate was meeting with Tiffanie Luckett during Washington Week. These connections really do make a difference.
I also met with Heather Powers and Jarred Butto whilst there. Both send their greetings. Heather had some good information as to clinical jobs there. Jarred was great, too. His insight was great, his wit even better. I'm certain that the relationships I'm cultivating now will be critical to finding a job after I graduate in June 2013.
I attended Washington Week as a first-year administration student. My initial thoughts regarding WW were that it would be useful and a great time to see D.C. for the first time. What I actually received out of the experience was must more than I had expected. Not only is March a great time to see the sites of the city, but the lineup of alumni available for us to speak with was quite extensive and diverse. I walked away from the week feeling as though my career goals had been raised and my understanding of the fields in which our education could serve beneficial was broadened. Michael organized a relaxing environment with the hotel and location, and I maxed out my meetings at 13. I found that 13 meetings, plus the networking event at the Cosmos Club, and seeing a good portion of D.C. sites left me exhausted, but grateful of the well-rounded experience. My recommendation to any students thinking about (or dead-set) on the administration concentration should definitely try to attend. If you feel as though budget constraints may serve as a barrier, here are some tips: buy your plane ticket early (fly in early Monday and leave Friday at the cheapest time), bring snacks along with you, split meals with friends, and walk to all your appointments (plus its a great way to see the city). In addition, bring comfortable walking shoes! As far as being a first-year or second-year, I recommend going as a first-year. It will help you cater your classes for the rest of your time at SSA and will also give you a broader scope when beginning to look for jobs your second year... you can always get the list of alum and let them know you went to WW the year before if you are hoping to make new contacts before graduation. Also, do not forget to write your thank you notes... I recommend trying to write them each night after your sessions! In closing, keep in mind that though you may not be interested in moving to D.C. or working in the federal government you can still gain a lot from the week. I never imagined myself in D.C. (or working in the federal government), but my opinions have changed... and even if they did not change, the week still allowed me to learn so much more about what to take advantage of while at SSA, network with current and former students, and broaden my perspectives of what is possible! Best wishes!
As a first-year clinical-track student at SSA, I was not sure what precisely I would take away from Washington Week. I knew the cohort attending was dominated by admin students and many of the alumni sessions were more administrative or government positions. I wanted to attend, however, mainly because I am in the International Social Welfare program of study. Understanding that many international organizations are based in DC and send clinical workers abroad, I wanted to see if this was a city I could see myself in following graduation. What I found in my experience was that and more. Throughout the week, I met with various alumni who, if they could not personally help me make a clinical connection, knew a former SSA classmate or friend who they were willing to put me in tough with. During the reception at the Cosmos Club, I found myself in conversation with a handful of clinical social work professionals who were just as pleasantly surprised to meet me as I was them.
Perhaps most surprising about the week, I truly feel I left DC with an appreciation for what work is being done in the highest administrative offices of government and social agencies and how that influences my work as a direct service professional. From session to session, alumni repeated things like, “I knew I was not meant to be a clinical social worker, but I knew my purpose was to work at this level to make the jobs of those in direct service easier.” And with SSA’s interdisciplinary approach to social work, I feel I understood how the clinical and administrative aspects inform one another.
I would highly recommend that more clinical students take advantage of what Washington Week has to offer, especially (but not limited to) students considering careers with international organizations. I recommend that clinical students communicate their story and professional goals and what they want out of Washington Week. I found this the best way to help alumni help you make further connections in the DC or in other areas of the country. Finally, it was a fantastic realization that the SSA network is just as alive and strong in cities outside of Chicago. Alumni and professionals were eager to meet SSA students, and I feel that gave me the confidence and know-how to prepare for my professional life post-SSA, complete with a broader geographic range of where I might see myself in the future.
From Washington Week, I learned about all the routes SSA alumni take when they first graduate. I also learned how unique our degree is and how to play up the social work part of it if we're looking for more direct service type jobs and the social administration part if we're looking for policy or program management type jobs. In addition, this trip reinforced the message I have been getting about the importance of networking and informational interviews.
The trip was helpful because it gave me an insider's lens on how to navigate applying for jobs in the Federal Government, that it's pretty important and impressive to have worked in D.C., especially on the Hill, even if just for a couple of years (especially for those who want to do policy work), and gave me a sense of what it is like to live and work in D.C. and the feel of the fast-paced environment that exists there.
I would strongly encourage any admin student to attend Washington Week if they have even the slightest inkling of maybe wanting to work in D.C., doing policy work at the federal level, working for the federal government, and/or curious about the types of jobs and careers they can go into with an SSA degree. The networking and candid advice from the SSA alumni alone is priceless!
I would be more than happy to talk to any student thinking about attending Washington Week in the future. Thanks!
The most important thing I learned from Washington Week was to not be shy about reaching out to connections in D.C.. In addition another thing I found surprisingly helpful was advice from a majority of the site visit hosts to not be shy about articulating your own accomplishments and how D.C. is not a place to always be modest.
Washington Week was especially helpful because it provided me with the confidence that I can survive in a place as politically charged as D.C. if I only utilized the right contacts. Furthermore, it was especially helpful to witness how the brand of SSA and the University of Chicago holds a great deal of weight in the job application process with employers in the D.C. job market.
I would encourage 1st year students to attend if they're looking to work in federal government jobs as many of the deadlines are in the fall. I would also encourage 2nd year students to attend as they may meet someone during Washington Week who may be a great lead or source of support in landing them a job after graduation. There really isn't a "good" time to go as I think the earlier in your SSA education the better! I'm a first year and am so thankful for this opportunity to attend. I fully plan on attending next year as well!
It was a great experience overall and I met some really nice, genuine, honest, and helpful fellow SSA Alumni.
I have been thinking about what I would tell first years about Washington Week...and it has been difficult to put into words the experience that I had. Washington Week truly made a significant impact on my graduate career. I came back from the trip more clear about the classes I should explore, what interests me, and the steps I need to take to work in D.C. whether in a nonprofit or in government. Before Washington Week, I was offered three internships for my second year field placement, and I was lost as to which internship would be most beneficial. This week helped me make that decision, and I finally accepted a position today.
Washington Week gave me the opportunity to connect with other current SSA students—second years and evening students. My interactions with other students were a great source of advice, encouragement, and we even started to network among each other regarding internships and jobs. Finally, this week reinforced my decision to attend SSA—the sense of community that this school has fostered is truly amazing.
Numerous alumni took time out of their busy schedule to meet with us and attend the night event at Cosmos Club. SSA graduates have made significant contributions to the D.C. community and to the many agencies and institutions that they work for! Thanks!
A degree from SSA is extremely versatile but sometimes it is hard to see what the options are and variations of how to use it. SSA Washington Week allows students to see first-hand how alums are forging their careers with their SSA training and allows alums to continue to get ideas and make connections with other alums. In Washington, it is important to have a professional network and SSA Washington Week provides SSA students and alums the vehicle to build (AND MAINTAIN) that network. I have enjoyed participating in Washington Week year after year for professional and personal reasons. It's great to see old friends and make new ones.
Washington Week was truly inspirational. It exposed me to so many different fields that I would not have even known about otherwise. Some of these were consulting, research through governmental agencies, business, management, budget work, human resources, finance, advocacy, policy research, etc. etc. These positions gave me a better idea of what courses I need to take, what internships I should be looking for, and what people I need to start contacting now. Moreover, it was motivating to meet people who had so many different and enriching life trajectories. And it was encouraging to hear that these people would help us reach our goals no matter when and no matter where. The alumni with whom Michael sets us up are amenable, honest, warm, eager, and brilliant. They went above and beyond; not only to show me how to succeed in D.C., but also to help me succeed in D.C.
Signing up for Washington Week was one of the best decisions I have made since entering graduate school. The conversations I had, connections I made, and advice I received influenced my thinking about my future career more than I could have imagined. I had two primary motivations for signing up for the trip. As a clinical student who transferred to the University of Chicago after my first year of graduate school, I wanted to meet other SSA students interested in policy work and this trip seemed to be a good way to do it. And as someone who had worked in DC for a few years before going back to school, I wanted to visit the city to see if I could really see myself living and working there again. Honestly, I did not go into Washington Week thinking that I would get much out of the “networking” opportunities. I could not have been more wrong.
At both the reception and the information sessions, I spoke with former SSA-ers who are doing work that I never would have thought to consider with an SSA degree—and that I would love to pursue after graduation. The sessions gave us an opportunity to have frank conversations about how to find a job in DC, and how to get it. Everyone we met with seemed sincere in their offers to speak more with students who had more questions, or to help connect students to others in their area of interest. Already I have had the opportunity to follow up on one of the connections I made during the trip; when one of the alums was in Chicago recently to speak at an event on substance abuse/recovery (my area of interest), he shared the event information with me and we were able to chat a bit before the event started. We even emailed back and forth a bit after that event to discuss some of the issues that were raised there. This is just the sort of thing that makes Washington Week invaluable—the opportunity to make a lasting connection with someone who is working in a job that you want to one day have, and the chance to continue to build that professional relationship after the trip ends. I came away from the trip with these connections, new friends, and a renewed interest in working in Washington, DC.
A few pieces of advice for students attending or considering the trip: Washington Week is what you make of it. You can make new friends and develop your professional network, and easily, but you have to put yourself out there and be willing to feel a little awkward as you adjust to the constant “networking.” Just know that pretty much everything Michael says before the trip is true. This is not your everyday networking event; you will meet other social workers who are interested in what you want to do, and who do interesting things, and you will have genuine conversations that make you excited about branching out after graduation. And you will be exhausted by the end of the week, but it will be worth it. Make the most of this opportunity. Sign up for as many sessions as you can, and don’t limit yourself to organizations/agencies that are most similar to what you think you want to do. Even if you’re sure you want to work at, say, a think tank, keep an open mind and go to sessions at federal government agencies and non-profit organizations and anywhere else you can. Ask a lot of questions. Get to know the other students on the trip. Don’t freak out about your resume or your job search in the middle of the week, when you feel like you have so much to do in order to prepare for the next step. And write your thank you notes as soon as humanly possible (i.e., preferably the day of the session) so that you don’t have to struggle with it later. Remember, no other school of social work in the entire country offers its students this sort of thing. Appreciate it and take advantage of it!
Having attended the 2012 Washington Week as a first year administrative student, my expectations included meeting many interesting people, learning about their work, and picking up a few helpful SSA hints throughout the week. Having long had interest in moving to DC after graduation, I hoped the week would validate my desires and solidify my career choices. I can confidently say that my experience during Washington Week exceeded all these expectations and actually set me on a path to DC sooner than I would have imagined!
First, the week provided the opportunity to meet and interact with an incredibly diverse group of professionals working in DC. Each individual had an interesting professional position and their career trajectories included unique backgrounds, educations, and experiences. SSA alums were open to discussing, often in great detail (!), their individual paths to DC but they all shared common advice: work hard while at SSA, take classes in other departments, learn how to ‘sell yourself,’ and take risks. Additionally, many alums offered very practical advice: develop and maintain a networking spreadsheet, learn how to negotiate, keep a running list of accomplishments at your field placement. These tips (and there were many, many more) were offered by alums as a way of helping us make the most of our time at SSA and preparing us for the job market. These pieces of advice have already proven useful and I’m sure I will continue to reap the benefits in years to come.
Aside from professional development, I found my time at Washington Week to be personally rewarding as well. As stated above, the alums offered personal stories, which highlighted the diverse career paths that SSA grads have taken after graduation. Some immediately moved to DC while others spent time in Chicago. Some took internships while others traveled abroad. For me, this underscores the reality that there is no ‘correct’ career path – this helped me become less unsettled with my lingering ‘what do I want to do with my life?!’ questions. Recognizing the futility in attempting to plan and control every detail of my future career, I came back to Chicago confidant in my educational choices and excited about the possibilities for my career.
Lastly, I offer a personal story as a testament to the power of Washington Week. Before heading to DC, I had applied for a summer internship with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a government agency associated with the Treasury Department. I was offered a position, however particular departmental hiring mandates meant that the only department able to hire non-law students was the facilities department. Simply put, they offered me a job to help them acquire real estate for new office space. Not exactly social work. While in Washington Week, however, I met an SSA alum who is currently working in the Consumer Advocacy and Education branch of the Bureau – perfect place for a social worker! I explained my situation to him and he told me he would look into it and see if he could get me transferred to another department. Returning to Chicago later that week, I was frustrated with the situation and planning to decline the facilities offer. I figured I could bartend in Chicago for the summer….Until I got a call from the Treasury Department a few days later! The SSA alum I’d met the week earlier had pulled a few strings and got approval for a non-law student intern in his department. He fast tracked my application and submitted my name for approval. Within a few hours, I was offered an official position in his department and my DC summer plans were set.
This situation was unique to my circumstances, however I feel it accurately portrays the opportunities that Washington Week participation can help develop. I would encourage any and all SSA student to attend Washington Week – it’s an invaluable and unforgettable experience!
I attended SSA from 2001 – 2003 and graduated with a master's degree in June of 2003. While at SSA, I participated in the Administrative Track. Having previously spent my professional career working on numerous state, federal, and presidential campaigns, I entered SSA determined to better understand how policies affect program operations on the frontlines; and how, as a future program analyst, I could advocate for meaningful changes that would improve program implementation. I also tried to encourage my fellow students to get involved in policymaking and lobbying as a way of better serving their clients. While Washington Week was not available when I was at SSA, I was pleased when Michael Jogerst and the rest of the SSA team took the initiative to organize it. It is so exciting that every year since then, more and more students have taken advantage of the opportunity. Since its inception, I have participated in Washington Week, answering questions and trying to give students an accurate picture of what life in D.C. is like and how things operate in the federal bureaucracy. As future leaders and social workers, it is imperative for students to understand how policies are created and implemented and how funding affects the programs that are important to them at the federal, state and local level. While I hope they leave D.C. with a better understanding of this process, I also hope they return to SSA better prepared to make career and personal decisions that will serve them and their clients well in the future. I feel it is my duty to help these fledgling social workers as they begin their journeys, but I gain so much from the experience as well. Their energy, enthusiasm, and eagerness to help make the world a better place are invigorating and remind me of why I chose this path. I always end the week feeling better about my choices and reenergized to do all I can to help the people I have committed to serve.
I participated in Washington Week as a student in 2007, and the event made a significant impression on me. I was in my first year at SSA, so at the time I was centered more on performing well in classes than committing to a career decision. The experience of meeting alumni in their places of business introduced new career paths and helped to refine my goals at school after the spring break. Overall, the experience was an invaluable conceptual and practical benefit to my professional development.
Most students at SSA are quite career-driven, yet I found it common for many in my class to feel overwhelmed by the variety of professional directions we could take the SSA degree. For administrative students especially, the career path can appear fragmented. As a student you hear stories about alumni entering exciting national policy positions, but the course to these goals is not always clear. The SSA internship is an excellent introduction to many social service administration settings, but for those interested in policy work or federal service, the opportunities in Washington, D.C. are less accessible. Washington Week bridges this gap by providing an introduction to D.C. professional culture and the enthusiastic SSA alumni who participate.
After a week of meeting alumni in think tanks, federal agencies, foundations, and non-profits, my professional horizons were considerably affected. While I may have known that these positions were theoretically within reach, there is no replacement for personally interacting with SSA alumni onsite. Washington Week alumni dispel myths, provide clarity, and share personal tips for navigating obstacles in their fields. After a week of presentations, I had a newly refined concept for how I wanted my career to unfold. I may have gone to Washington Week interested in think tanks, but I left knowing I wanted to work in federal service. Washington Week was pivotal in solidifying my professional direction.
On a practical level, the benefits of Washington Week only begin in March. Relationships I established in that week are still active. SSA alumni really do stay in touch, and in my experience, go out of their way to help graduates. The program through which I entered federal service was designed by an SSA alumna. One generous participant was instrumental in my wife's career search 2 years after I attended Washington Week. As a newly participating alumnus, I look forward to the event all year. Meeting students refreshes a sense of excitement and possibility. The qualities and skills of SSA students are needed in D.C., and I am committed to assisting graduates however I can.
Finally, the elegant Cosmos Club must be mentioned. A reception at this D.C. institution sets an ideal tone for Chicago students and alumni by honoring historic intellectual achievement. Attendance is a privilege.
Washington Week was a powerful experience for me. It deepened my understanding of how my clinical social work education will strengthen me as a professional and inspired me to think about a variety of potential career paths.
Not only did Washington Week give me the opportunity to explore a new city, but it also helped me learn about a number of government and nonprofit agencies. I learned how SSA alums have navigated their professional trajectories and how they continue to grow. Even though I had heard how open and wonderful the alumni were, their willingness to candidly discuss their experiences and the ease with which they offered to help impressed me and made me feel connected to the SSA community in a way that nothing else had. They had great advice about how to make the most of my time at SSA and how to leverage my social work knowledge and skills as I move through my career.
Initially, Washington Week was appealing to me because I was looking for practical examples of how I could use the skills I am acquiring at SSA. I was expecting Washington Week to provide me with perspective and guidance as I plan my remaining time at SSA. Unequivocally, my expectations were met and exceeded. Each session provided a unique and practical example of how the skills acquired at SSA can successfully translate into meaningful work in the public and private sectors.
Additionally, the alumni provided us with several helpful tips to increase the possibility of acquiring a position with a government agency. I wasn't aware of the intricacies of the government hiring process, and the alumni really broke it down for us. If a student is interested in working with a non-profit or foundation, several alumni are doing meaningful work that is impacting the greater community. Whatever you want to do, there is an alumnus in D.C. that can provide a valuable perspective.
Also, I can't forget, it was a lot of fun! It was an opportunity to experience things I hadn't before, whether it was sipping wine at the extravagant Cosmos Club, or rubbing shoulders with some of D.C.'s most talented professionals. Michael Jogerst said before we left, "you'll be exhausted by Friday if you did it right." I definitely was tired by the end of the week, but it was certainly worth it. I highly recommend it to anyone. Even if you know exactly what you want to do upon graduation, Washington Week can give you a new perspective. Michael, our gracious organizer, went out of his way to give us a great and worthwhile experience, and it didn't disappoint.
Washington Week was a fantastic opportunity for me to witness the great work that many SSA alumni are doing. As a social administration student, I am often perplexed about the careers that social administration students choose when they graduate.
I think it is very easy to conceive potential clinical jobs—that is what social work has long been known for. Yet, the "social administration" jobs do not always come to mind. For example, one would never think of working as a Financial and Program Analyst at the Treasury Department, as James Miner does, when graduating as an SSA student. Washington Week was an enriching experience as it provided insight into the very unique degree that social administration students have and how recent alum have used their skills in various fields.
As an evening student, I came to Washington Week with significant work experience and an understanding of how various organizational cultures really affect a job experience. I think these experiences heightened my awareness of the different organizations we visited and provoked questions that a student without experience may not have always asked. For example, I really enjoyed speaking with Sarah Marshall about her experience working previously as a consultant, and now as an analyst with the GAO. She was able to elaborate on the various cultural differences between these two jobs, which was very insightful to me personally as I contemplate moving to a new job upon graduation.
I very much appreciated the insight, honesty and general enthusiasm that all of the SSA alumni shared throughout our experience. It is obvious that they all enjoy the jobs and, in my opinion, are really making a difference. A select few of the lessons I learned are as follows:
- The SSA Program Evaluation class is IMPORTANT! think nearly every alumni recommended it! In addition, individuals interested in policy analysis should look into taking quantitative classes as this is often necessary for jobs.
- When you feel as though you are no longer learning something in a job, it's time to move on. Although it seems like a basic concept, I think it's a monumental piece of advice that is often overlooked as individuals get caught-up in the daily tasks and responsibilities of their jobs.
- Don't let a job description deter you from applying!
- SSA and the social administration track have granted us an incredibly unique set of skills that can be applied to a variety of positions. We need to market ourselves as individuals who are capable of critical analysis, but also capable of understanding the various social issues that plague the families and institutions that many policies affect.
- Excellent advice on the federal hiring process.
I enthusiastically recommend that all students at SSA take advantage of Washington Week—it is an amazing opportunity to speak with alumni who are living out the mission of SSA in the world. It is a very rich experience that allows one to understand the various career paths that are available to SSA alum and how one can navigate the career exploration process.
Washington Week started while I was a student at SSA. However, my first experience with Washington Week was in 2006, the year after I graduated from SSA. And every year since 2006 I've participated in Washington Week by attending the reception and hosting information sessions. I enjoy meeting with students, learning about their career interests and catching up on the happenings at SSA. However, Washington Week is first and foremost for the students. Every year I am more impressed with the focus and dedication of the students that participate in Washington Week. The experience for the students to meet with alumni, to learn about career opportunities in Washington D.C., and to discover more about their career interests is invaluable.
I do not know of any other social work graduate programs that offer such a rich and rewarding networking and career guiding opportunity. Thank you to the wonderful staff at SSA for organizing Washington Week and I look forward to participating for many more years!
This year’s Washington Week was a truly unique experience for me. I was given the opportunity to meet with alumni in such varying positions as loan officer for a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI, something I did not know about), program analysts at the USDA, and senior program manager for a private organization. I was able to hear the advantages and disadvantages of working for the government versus working for a private organization or start up. I was given advice on what classes to take as an admin student. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, Kevin Concannon, who has had a lengthy and distinguished career in public service.
I was also to meet alumni more casually at a gathering at a Mexican restaurant put together by Lynn Kim, Program Management Specialist for the US Department of Treasury. We were able to discuss alumni’s personal experience in D.C. as well as career advice over margaritas and salsa. The night was fantastic, and it was very encouraging to see alumni with the same degree I’m pursuing be so outgoing and positive about finding work after graduation.
The alumni mixer at the Cosmo Club provided even further opportunities to approach additional SSAers in DC, as well as some Harris School grads. I was able to sit down and speak to Neelam Patel, a program specialist for the Office of Violence Against Women, and hear about her experience rising through the ranks. I left DC with more business cards than I could fit in my wallet, but I’m very glad I have them and am thankful I was able to meet such driven, generous, and talented alumni.
I found Washington Week affirming and exciting. It affirmed that my concentration in social administration can, in fact, lead me to a great number of jobs. It excited me to learn that many of the jobs for which I will qualify are interesting and impactful. In the process, the alumni hosted us generously and enthusiastically. They shared their stories and perspectives, lending useful insight into course selection, job preparedness, networking, and other considerations for beginning or continuing a career.
Though I had been aptly forewarned, the eagerness of the alumni to assist us during Washington Week and in the future still awed me. A number of the alumni had found their current positions through connections they had made while on Washington Week, and others used the reception at the Cosmos Club and other opportunities during Washington Week to reconnect and connect with other SSA alumni. From my perspective, the Washington Week trip has helped to create and sustain a Washington, D.C.-based alumni network for SSA. And I felt fully invited by the alumni to tap into that network.
Affirmed and excited from what the alumni shared with me, I returned to SSA reinvigorated for my coursework, field placement, and networking opportunities. Notably, I returned with an increased sense of purposefulness and clearer direction in my studies.
Though I had a full and pleasantly exhausting itinerary of alumni visits, Washington Week also provided me the opportunity to explore the city of D.C. and to enjoy some fun while bonding with other SSA students.
I went to Washington Week during my first year at SSA, and found that it really opened my eyes to a variety of careers that I could apply for, such as positions in the federal government. Speaking directly with alumni, and hearing about how they ended up in their positions was so inspiring, and they really gave us practical advice about applying for jobs and networking. I found it really helpful to go to Washington Week my first year, in particular, so I could think about my career differently before I approached my second year at SSA.
Without Washington Week, I do not think I would have the career I have today. I think a lot of students come to SSA with ideas about what type of work they are interested in pursuing, but until they actually do an internship or speak with alumni who do that work every day, it can be challenging to know realistically what types of jobs they will find fulfilling. Washington Week gives students valuable information about what it really is like to work in policy in Washington that is often hard to get when you do not live in D.C. I would recommend it to all students, including those who are not sure whether they want to work in policy, because the insights you get during this week can really change your perspective.
Last spring, I presented with other alumni at the agency I work at to SSA students during Washington Week. One of the reasons I volunteered to speak to students was because of my fond memories of how these sessions influenced me, and I wanted to help other students in the same way I was helped several years ago. Alumni really do have invaluable insights that they can share with students, and I think the tradition of having this networking system in place at SSA really makes a difference.
I had an incredible time at Washington Week. I met amazing SSA alumni who provided me with in depth descriptions of the amazing work that they do in Washington. I was able to network with inspirational professionals who are working as social service administrators, reforming policies, and informing policies through research. The SSA alumni were not only helpful but were also very caring and positive. I truly appreciated their guidance and forms of mentorship.
Washington week provided me with a great opportunity for professional development. In addition, Washington week provided me with an opportunity to understand the flexibility and versatility that an SSA degree poses for me. Before attending Washington Week, I was not aware that with an SSA degree you have the opportunity to engage in various professional opportunities. Many of the SSA alumni shared that they are able to use their degree in many distinct ways. They can tailor it to obtain a more clinical, policy, or economic job positions, depending on their interests.
I learned that policy work entails doing a lot of research. I find that very appealing because I am a grand believer that research informs policy, which leads to incremental forms of social change. My favorite seminar was Ariel’s presentation of the Migration Policy Institute. Through his presentation I learned about the importance of engaging in research to inform immigration policy. I am extremely passionate about immigration policy so this session was very informative. It was great seeing that there are various scholars that share a similar interest as me in immigration policy.
Overall, attending Washington Week was a great networking opportunity that I truly recommend for future SSA students to take part in. I learned so much about career opportunities. The SSA alumni were extremely informative and helpful. As a result, I truly recommend SSA students to attend Washington Week.
As I boarded the plane for DC, I had no idea what to expect from the Washington Week experience. The first two quarters of my SSA education were oriented mainly toward clinical work, so--as an admin student--I was hopeful that Washington Week would expose me to a different side of the profession. In that regard, Washington Week did not disappoint. I left DC with a much broader (and more inspired) definition of what admin social work careers can look like.
Prior to Washington Week, I had never considered the federal route and was wary of meeting SSA alums who seemed to have lost their social work essence by entering the political sphere. Through sessions with government employees, I saw how they imbued their SSA education into their research and policy work. These sessions illuminated the importance of social workers working toward social change within government systems as well as outside of them, and reminded me that a position can be a great fit even if "Social Worker" isn't in the job description.
Washington Week provided countless opportunities to network with fellow SSA students and alumni who were eager to tackle social problems through a variety of avenues. Returning to Chicago, I now realize how critical it is to determine which avenue of impact I hope to take in my career. I'm immensely grateful for Washington Week and believe the experience will inform the rest of my education at SSA, as well as my outlook on social change once I graduate next spring.
Going into Washington Week, I did not have a great idea of what I wanted to get out of it. I was giving up an entire week of vacation and relaxation to push myself out of my comfort zone, but other than that, I was unsure of what the week would entail. Fortunately, Washington Week was an experience that will benefit me in regards to my future career, as well as on a personal level.
To put it vaguely, I wanted to go to DC in order to meet interesting people and learn about careers that are possible with a degree from SSA. People like Peter Gaumond, Roxanne Alvarez, and Charley Curie all helped to achieve this goal. I had no idea that social workers could work in the White House or that the United Nations Foundation existed. I also did not know that I would meet someone (Charley) who would share my interest in suicide prevention and be able to connect me with the director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. This connection has the potential to be a huge advantage when it comes time to begin applying for jobs. All of the alumni were extremely receptive to explaining their jobs, answering student questions, and giving advice to working and living in DC. I always knew that social workers were the best kinds of people, but it was refreshing to see just how helpful we are to one another. Everyone wants us to be successful.
On a more personal level, I was terrified to have to employ my networking skills, or lack thereof. I have never been comfortable with the idea of networking, so attending the Cosmos Club reception was a cause of great anxiety for me. However, upon arrival, I realized that, once again, the alumni were there to get to know us and see what they could do to help us be successful. Each conversation that I had was just that: a conversation. I never felt like I was being put on the spot or having to try to impress alum. For the most part, they were just very interested in what I had to say and the questions that I asked of them. Washington Week definitely helped me work on my networking skills which is great because, like it or not, who I know will determine what kind of career I have in the future.
Overall, I think that students can get whatever it is that they want to out of Washington Week. In my case, I was not necessarily set on finding a job in DC. I just wanted to see what government jobs look like, what the culture of DC is like, and try to make some connections along the way. I definitely feel like I achieved this goal, but if a student has a more direct goal of finding a summer internship or even a job for after graduation, there are opportunities to make that happen within Washington Week. In the end, even though I had to sacrifice a week of sleeping in and reading books for fun (does that even exist anymore?), attending Washington Week was well worth it. I would recommend the trip to every SSA student because there is something for everyone captured within this week.
Washington Week in two words: WORTH IT! The week is busy but filled with opportunities. It is almost impossible not to learn something new both about yourself and social policy in general. Pervious to Washington Week, I went back and forth with what I wanted to do with my SSA degree. I wondered if I should go into research, program evaluation, policy, and even law. I debated whether I wanted to stay within the realm of older adults or disability. Basically, I did not know what I wanted to do! Although Washington Week did not answer all my questions, the experience pushed me in the right direction. I learned just by taking initiative, talking to people, and asking the right questions that I could meld all my seemingly different interests together. Perhaps most of all, I gained a proactive stance on my career development. Networking is not only about the most obvious, getting contacts, but it's about learning from your peers; it's about seeing the opportunities that are not so obvious, and learning how to get there. Washington Week gives you some of those tools as well as the confidence to realize there is something out there that fits ALL your interests—you do not have to compromise. To me, this is priceless.
Also, it should be said, even though Washington Week is busy, you still get to experience what Washington, D.C. has to offer and meet new SSA students.
To end, I encourage attending Washington Week, as it is a unique experience. This is especially true if you feel uncomfortable about networking. It is a way for you to get your feet wet with out having to jump in right away. Michael does the tough—and at least for me—nerve-wrecking stuff: he makes the initial contact, finds the right alumni, and sets up the perfect environment for you to gain the most from your experience.
I attended Washington Week as a second year SSA student in March 2007. It was during Washington Week that I formed a deeper connection to the University of Chicago and SSA. The number of alumni who year after year are willing and eager to share their stories and offer advice and job postings speaks to the caliber of the program and its community. The paths one can take with a degree from SSA are varied and Washington Week provides an excellent opportunity for students to make contacts with individuals who understand the uniqueness of the SSA program and who have found passionate career paths to pursue. Furthermore, as a student, I found it helpful to spend part of my spring break gearing up for the job search. Fortunately for me, I met an alumnus at Washington Week who told me about a job opening at his place of work. I applied for it, was offered the position, and have been working for the same organization for the past three and a half years. I highly recommend Washington Week. It's the perfect balance of networking, socializing, and (career) soul searching!
As a clinical student with no clear aspiration to live in Washington, DC, I may seem like an odd Washington Week participant. However, I could not pass up the opportunity to meet and pose questions to so many alumni who work in the field. Social work is a broad field and an SSA degree can lead to a variety of applications. It is hard for me to wrap my head around vague sounding careers like policy analyst or program manager. I could research these jobs for hours and still not learn as much as I did by spending 45 minutes hearing from actual professionals. Each alumni described their current jobs but also gave us the run down on how they got to where they are. Learning exactly how different people landed that first job out of graduate school was invaluable. While everyone’s path is unique, there were some common threads that popped up multiple times: learn how to “sell” your degree and use your network.
The University of Chicago brand is certainly eye-catching on a resume. However, for better or for worse, some employers will not recognize SSA or fully understand what our education entails. Many alumni told us that this can be beneficial because it allows individuals to tailor how they present themselves when job hunting. Emphasizing that SSA students receive a foundation in both the policy world as well as clinical social work skills can set us apart from other candidates. Taking classes at Booth or Harris can also help diversify your skill set and stand out to employers. This was recommended by a number of alumni.
Asking for informational interviews was a key piece of wisdom. “Networking” can be an intimidating concept, but Washington Week provided a very structured and accessible entrance into the world of professional networking. I was stunned by how each alumni seemed to welcome our questions and were interested in our particular goals. They gave personalized advice, especially during the reception at the Cosmos Club when we could all mingle one-on-one, and really seemed like they wanted to help us succeed.
Attending Washington Week exposed me to many careers that are possible with an SSA degree. All of the alumni are doing phenomenal work in D.C. and offered practical advice on how to pursue a job within their organization or D.C. in general. Alumni were open with their path to their current positions-both in accomplishments and challenges. I learned so many things on the trip, but what stands out the most is the versatility of an SSA degree based on the rigorous and challenging expectations of the coursework that helped alumni move into their careers. The experience showed me how SSA creates students who are well rounded and marketable at the time of graduation. Seeing some of the career possibilities that are available widened my scope of what is possible. I would highly recommend all students at SSA to attend Washington Week!
As promised, Washington Week proved to be a week of much learning—learning about myself, about the opportunities before me, and about the things I needed to do to position myself for those opportunities. Washington Week exposed me, like nothing else could, to the overwhelming breadth of jobs available to individuals graduating from SSA with an administration focus. This was both encouraging and affirming, especially for one not yet sure where she hopes to go or who she hopes to "be." The opportunity to ask uninhibited questions of D.C. alums and gathering information about and gaining insight into the various fellowship opportunities were the two most critical and helpful components of the week for me. As a first year, I deliberated for some time as to whether I would go this year or next, and I am beyond grateful I took the chance this year. I now have a lot of time to absorb all that I was exposed to, time to plan and take advantage of opportunities, and time to follow-up with some of the people I met. I highly encourage all admin students to take advantage of this week, especially if you are a first-year student lacking direction or thinking about working in policy, analysis, and advocacy.
I attended my first Washington Week without any preconceptions about what the potential value of the experience might be; it just seemed like something I should do as part of a career exploration process. The fact that I was first in line to attend a second year of Washington Week explains a bit about the importance of the experience to me.
Through participation in the Washington Week onsite information sessions I gained insight into how alumni translate their SSA educations to meaningful positions of influence to improve institutions and the lives of individuals. The flexibility of an SSA degree was evident through the various types of work people were doing in D.C. at non-profits, advocacy organizations, in academia, government and policy settings, and clinical settings. I appreciated that alumni were willing to speak openly and honestly about their jobs and experiences in a manner that future employers and recruiters might not, which was tremendously valuable as I considered my own career path and which types of jobs would best fit my values and skill sets. I learned not only about potential job opportunities, but how to best set myself up for successful employment in each setting including what type of field placement, coursework, and other experience was beneficial. It was through Washington Week that I first learned of the Presidential Management Fellows program, through which I successfully secured employment after graduation from SSA.
As an SSA alumna, I always excitedly anticipate Washington Week because it gives me a way to stay connected with the school even though I am located geographically far from campus. I take satisfaction knowing that I am able to "pay forward" the thoughtfulness, direction, and support that was shared with me when I attended as a student. My actions are not entirely altruistic, though. One of the reasons I have hosted students at my work and spent time coaching several PMF candidates last year is that I know in the long run I will benefit. I will benefit when some of these individuals become my peers and offer me advice on their career fields or forward job opportunities at their organizations that are a great fit for my skills and interest. I will benefit when, because of Washington Week, other SSA alumni decide to pursue careers in the Federal government and my coworkers reflect the intelligence, pragmatism, and commitment to social justice that SSA graduates embody. Despite common perception, the Federal government is filled with bright, motivated, and accomplished individuals, and we would all be better off if many more of those individuals also had social work values!
I couldn't agree more that all the alums are really nice and helpful.
I would really recommend first year students to go, however. I think they would benefit much more than second years as it feels a lot of opportunities are too late for second years already. For first year students, they get a better sense of what classes they should take the coming year, what they should focus on learning in their second year placement, and they also get the opportunities to do some cool summer internships in D.C., which I am sure would open up a lot more opportunities for them.
I never thought I would want to work in D.C. before. I decided to come to Washington Week because I wanted to know what SSA grads are doing out there and what we can do with our degree. I also decided to come as I hoped it could give me better ideas and directions to find a good job. And it definitely exceeded my expectation. Most importantly, it really motivated me seeing that our alums are in a lot of amazing organizations, doing a lot of great things. The trip, because of these nice alums, also encouraged me a lot not to limit my options. I also think Washington week is a great way for people to learn to engage in professional social talk. The sessions are less intimidating than individual informational interviews as you are with a lot of peers. But you also get the chance to ask a lot of questions and follow-up with the speaker.
At SSA, we often hear how “versatile” a degree in Social Service Administration can be, especially for social workers in the admin concentration. Washington Week, for me, was a true testament to this versatility. As a first year admin student, I attended Washington Week as a way to learn about the career paths of former students and begin to make connections in D.C. since I plan to move back to the east coast after I graduate. What I found was a wide range of social workers doing various different jobs within and outside of government. SSA alumni were working in government agencies, such as HHS and GAO, in think tanks and policy/research institutes, and in large national non-profit organizations. When I think back on my experience meeting alumni, I think the most helpful insight was learning how different individuals leveraged their degrees at SSA to get their current positions. One alum, who is a current Presidential Management Fellow (a program I am going to apply to after hearing from alumni at Washington Week), said that he often says he has a Master’s degree in social welfare policy, which he uses while doing research and evaluation at a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. Another alum focused on the fusion of clinical and admin work that she received at SSA to obtain a position at a large organization that does national-level policy, but implements programs at the state and local level, a process that allows her to do policy and research in D.C., but maintain a semblance of direct client contact. Listening to how alumni got to where they are today provided me with a framework to explore the many careers available to social workers, whether on the clinical or admin track.
Just to add, I was very impressed by how approachable the alumni were and how interested they were in assisting students not just with the job search or networking, but providing advice on professors, classes at other schools like Booth or Harris, and even the field placement process. Many alumni mentioned attending Washington Week as a student and seeing this as an opportunity to provide other students with a similar opportunity to develop goals and trajectories. Michael and Jasmin really come through with setting up a hugely beneficial week for students that I would recommend to any SSA student interested in national-level work and contemplating a move east after graduation.
I knew before I left for Washington Week that I would get clarity about my future before I came home. Washington Week – actually, Michael Jogerst – enabled us to have such a unique opportunity to link with like-minded professionals, get exposure to many career options that can be achieved with our future degrees, and gain insight into skills we should build in our remaining time at SSA.
The biggest gain from going to Washington Week is undoubtedly the extensive networking opportunity with many fascinating and supportive people. Besides the information alumni gave us, they did not hesitate to mention the upper hand they had from reaching out to Washington Week contacts. Their generosity and encouragement was inspiring.
My main concern heading to DC was the city itself. Even though I am mostly interested in federal policy work, I wasn't sure that I wanted to be in DC. Many alumni spoke to the city itself, and quelled my concerns about the intimidating atmosphere. Personally, the decision to move to DC after graduation was made largely as a result of the conversations I was able to have with so many alum who are working there currently.
I highly encourage any SSA student to attend Washington Week. The alumni and students you meet are great resources (and friends!) You will get the opportunity to see what alumni are doing with their degree in an administrative capacity. You will leave understanding what you want out of SSA and what you want for yourself in the future. Washington Week was truly an intangible, invaluable experience that I would never have had if Michael Jogerst hadn't orchestrated it. This is an opportunity you cannot afford to miss!
I ended up in the Washington D.C. metro area as a result of gaining exposure, through SSA's Washington Week program, to the endless variety of job opportunities there. That exposure was so critical in helping me make the case in my own job application process, I felt like the best thing I could do to help current SSA students was to provide them as much information as I possibly could about the range of types of jobs and roles that SSA had prepared us to do and how to frame the SSA experience vis-a-vis those different types of opportunities. In some cases, I was able to point students to actual job opportunities through the networks I'd developed; but more importantly, I hoped to do my part to expand the horizons of how SSA students understand their immense professional potential.