Working in Washington, DC, requires a special sort of skillset in 2019. With information moving faster than ever and ideologies clashing even more quickly, DC demands a person who can think quickly, communicate well, and lead others. Having a moral center helps too, and, lucky for Christendom graduates, they leave the college equipped with all of those skills in addition to their liberal arts education. Many alumni can now be found working in DC think tanks, researching, writing, and communicating solutions to today’s many problems for the masses.
Thanks to the college’s proximity to DC, students have gotten the chance to do internships in our Nation’s Capital for as long as Christendom has existed. Working for places such as The Heritage Foundation, The Federalist Society, and in DC congressional and senate offices, students have put their skills to the test within the halls of congress and on the steps of the Capitol. After graduation, they make their mark on the city: Tyler Lowe ’11 is the director of online education at The Federalist Society, while Colleen Harmon ’13 is the intern program manager for the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. Inside Congress, Cyrus Artz ’10 is the chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.
More recent alumni have quickly found success as well, including Monica Burke ’17 and Abigail Wilkinson ’17. Burke, before even graduating, served as a legislative intern in the US Senate and as a research intern at the American Principles Project. Wilkinson also used Christendom’s proximity to DC to her advantage, doing internships with the Media Research Center and with The Heritage Foundation. Now, both work in DC full-time, with Burke working at The Heritage Foundation and Wilkinson working at the James Wilson Institute. Together, they returned to campus for Christendom’s Life on Tap alumni networking series, speaking with students on how the college’s education helped prepare them for their future in DC.
“The way that I got involved in public policy is largely due to the example of Christendom alumni who went before me and the help of (political science chairman) Dr. Bracy Bersnak,” says Burke. “Take advantage of the professors and their mentorship. Cultivate those relationships, because they can open professional doors, as they did for me.”
Burke is on the front lines of impacting public policy, following through on Heritage’s mission to impact what happens in Congress as policy is being made. She works on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, serving in the DeVos Center at Heritage. From abortion to euthanasia, Burke researches, writes, and speaks on many of the hot-button social issues that are part of the fabric of today’s society.
Her time at Christendom assisted her greatly. From the administrative skills she learned in the Student Life Office to the research skills she learned in the classroom, Burke relies on her liberal arts background daily in her current job. Her time in the Chester-Belloc Debate Society in particular helped her learn how to think on her feet — an asset to the radio and TV interviews she does now.
“Christendom students have so many opportunities to take on leadership roles and built out their resumes, but also just to have concrete experiences of working on a team and contributing to a broader community,” says Burke. “Christendom sets you up really well. It trains you to be a certain kind of person, which is the most important thing. It trains you to think in a certain way that a lot of people have not had. I think you can really be a force for good in the work place.”
Wilkinson also spoke highly of her education at Christendom and how it set her up for future success. After working at the Cardinal Newman Society after graduation, Wilkinson joined the James Wilson Institute, a non-profit also located in DC. While Heritage seeks to impact things in Washington on a legislative level, the James Wilson Institute works more to affect the judiciary level of government, and Wilkinson is hands-on in those efforts daily.
“The education that you have at Christendom and the relationships you form set you up for success in the professional world,’ says Wilkinson. “The reason I came to Christendom is probably, foremost, because I was so impressed that everything here was constructed in a way to most authentically live a Christian life. That is something that is so important in Washington, because it sorely needs that and needs you to be that person.”
Wilkinson is in charge of fundraising at JWI, writing grant proposals to foundations, constructing individual donor campaigns, and more. She also coordinates events for the Institute, even getting the opportunity to do work with high-level federal judges.
Wilkinson highly recommended that students do internships while they are in college, both to get professional experience and to learn exactly what they want to do after college. Further, she encouraged students to constantly be honing their skillsets by speaking with professors and with the college’s career office.
“The faculty at Christendom College come up again and again when I talk about my experience here,” says Wilkinson. “The professors here are always rooting me on in my career, and that’s definitely been an inspiration for me. Go talk to them about your academics but also about your ultimate goals. They are mentors that last for the rest of your life.”
Christendom’s mission is to “restore all things in Christ.” Based on the direction today’s culture is heading, Christendom alumni are needed in the epicenter of today’s political discourse now, more than ever, and the college’s faculty and staff are there to help students be fully prepared to take on those roles in society.
“One man can make a difference,” said Christendom’s founder, Dr. Warren Carroll. With more students graduating from Christendom than ever before, the possibilities for impacting America for the better are greater than ever as well.