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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

CPLA members take on Washington, D.C. for annual trip

CPLA members during a tour of the State Department in front of the Wall of Flags. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Payne)

Members of Emerson’s Communication, Politics, and Law Association (CPLA) took their annual trip to Washington, D.C., from April 11 to April 14, engaging with a small portion of the college’s alumni presence in the nation’s capital. 

CPLA has been taking immersion trips to D.C. since 1984. On these trips, members have engaged with alumni who work in various industries, many of which are either headquartered in or have a large presence in the city. 

Students took a tour of the Washington Center, where they have the opportunity to spend a semester in the nation’s capitol during their time at Emerson. During the program, students work a full-time internship and take two academic courses. 

They then attended an immersive workshop on Friday at the State Department, which was an active career panel held on the department’s main campus, and an executive career panel held at the DACOR Bacon House located on F Street. 

The active career panel was moderated by Tristram Perry, a foreign service officer based in D.C. who has previously served in Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Nepal, and Norway. The panel included members of the foreign and civil service divisions of the State Department. Many topics were discussed throughout the panel, the most paramount being how to start a career in the foreign or civil service. 

CPLA members during at the State Department after attending an active career panel at the department’s George C. Marshall Conference Center. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Payne).

Members of the panel included Andrew Herman, a foreign service IT specialist whose previous assignments include Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Jakarta, Indonesia. Mikkela V. Thompson is a foreign service office management specialist who has served overseas in Bangladesh, Colombia, Peru, and Italy, was also present. 

Additionally, Jed Wolfington, a public diplomacy foreign service officer who works on issues related to cultural change and has previously served overseas in Ukraine, Pakistan, Chile, and Moldova, was also there. Russell Gaither is a civil service officer currently serving as the diversity, equity, inclusion, and access officer for the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) who was present as well. 

Katherine Asselin, a third-year political communication major who serves as the president of CPLA, said she felt most connected to the two female panelists throughout the trip.

“The speakers I [most] connected with were the only two women we spoke to, Mikkela Thompson and Emily Horne,” said Asselin. “Perhaps the reason I connected with them was because they are passionate and capable women working in the political or diplomatic field which [may sometimes] doubt their abilities.” 

The executive career panel later that afternoon at the DACOR Bacon House was also moderated by Perry and was comprised of retired ambassador Richard E. Hoagland and Emily Horne. 

Hoagland’s career with the State Department began in 1985 working with the Afghan resistance during the Soviet-Afghan War. He later held many diplomatic posts including ambassador to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, chargé d’affaires in Turkmenistan, press spokesman in Uzbekistan, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. 

Horne currently serves as chief executive officer (CEO) of Allegro Public Affairs after an extensive career in government. She previously served as special assistant to the president, spokesperson, and senior director for the press at the National Security Council (NSC) in the Biden administration. Additionally, she led communication and confirmation efforts for Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Previous to this work, Horne served as a civil servant in the Obama-era State Department, including as communications director for the Obama Administration’s counter-ISIS efforts and spokesperson for South and Central Asian Affairs. 

Hailey Haddon, a third-year political communication major, remarked that having the opportunity to speak with career professionals was a meaningful aspect of the trip.  

“It was great to speak with such experienced and highly regarded professionals such as former Ambassador Richard Hoagland,” said Haddon. “[His] experiences working in the State Department were incredibly inspiring, and I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with him.”

Dr. Gregory Payne, chair of the communication studies department, noted that this year’s state department workshop was the most immersive in the organization’s history in taking trips to D.C.

“The State Department workshop and the degree to which [students] had access to very important people would be the best that we’ve had in the past,” said Payne. “The conference room we were in is one where major events occur and you had Tristram, who I think is an invaluable resource and somebody that I think demonstrates what the Emerson value is.” 

Students then had the opportunity to meet with multiple Emerson alumni who work in D.C. Peter Loge ‘87 serves as the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. Mehroz Sajjad ‘15 is a Fullbright scholar and doctoral teaching assistant in the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky. On Saturday, students took a tour of the U.S. Capitol building and later spoke with Elias Romanos ‘17, who currently works at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

CPLA members meeting with Elias Romanos ’17, who currently works at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (Photo courtesy of Gregory Payne)

Zoë Berghorn, a second-year political communication major who serves as a co-treasurer of CPLA, noted that her desire to work for the Department of Education was made more tangible by speaking with Romanos, who previously worked for the department.  

“[Through asking Romanos] about his change in position and departments, I was able to realize the flexibility of being in the professional field with a political communication degree,” said Berghorn. “[It actualized that] I can chase my interests while they morph through my professional career.”

On Sunday, students visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture before heading back to Boston. 

Asselin added that the community-building aspect of the trip was most memorable. 

“I love watching a group of people go from being cordial peers to becoming friends, and ultimately a more cohesive team,” said Asselin. “A collective experience like a trip or spending 8 hours together on a train really does wonders for building companionship and camaraderie.”

*Note: The writer of this article is an active member of CPLA.

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