As Washington puts forth policies that threaten and even demolish certain federal policies or agencies, some seniors are re-evaluating their career paths in fields like political science, education and environmental science, which have seen a shift in direction since President Trump took office.
“I went from being very determined to go to Washington, to taking a step back, reflecting and thinking, ‘Am I going to really make a big change in Washington?’” said Jeff Salvadore ’17, who served as president of both Brown Students for Hillary and the Brown Democrats. He said that his focus has shifted somewhat from Washington to his hometown of Chicago, where he hopes to make a greater impact at a local level.
Sydney Menzin ’17, an education concentrator who spent her summers in the White House under the Obama administration and at a youth service campaign, now interns at the Rhode Island Office of the Governor’s education team. Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education has made her reflect on her own future in education. DeVos, an advocate for school choice, has raised concerns on both a local and national scale regarding her proposed cuts to public education.
Through her experiences working on education policy at various levels of government, Menzin realized that “a lot of education (policy decisions) happen at the state and local levels,” she said. Menzin, too, will center her educational career around local issues while Trump is in office.
“I’m still passionate and motivated to be around awesome people, doing great work,” said Menzin, who will start a teaching position after graduation.
Others have found that the election has propelled them more toward careers that actively address current issues brought up by the Trump administration.
Jane Jacoby ’17 said that while she had considered many careers, such as forestry or law, the political climate has steered her toward “hands-on work” allowing for immediate change. Rather than going straight into graduate school, Jacoby hopes to utilize these interests in a way that will allow her to play a more direct role in the community, such as social justice work, she added.
In a way, the Trump administration has acted as “a catalyst, speeding up some of the decisions I would be making anyways,” she said.
Jon Gewirtzman ’17, an environmental science concentrator, aimed to pursue research post-graduation rather than policy, but the election made him feel conflicted, he said. Though Gewirtzman considered directly working in environmental advocacy, he ultimately decided that he was better suited for his original plan of completing research; he recently accepted a research assistant position at the Toolik Lake Field Station in Alaska. He will still be involved in activism, he added.
While applying for jobs, Gewirtzman “emphasized even more the importance of communication in science and making sure that my work engages the community,” he said. The election has challenged his assumption that most people had accepted global warming as a valid issue.
Beyond pursuing careers with impact, students also face cuts to certain fields they hoped to pursue.
“There are going to be cuts to research funding (and thus) graduate fellowships, so it might make my plan harder,” Gewirtzman said.
Students looking for work in Washington may find themselves bereft of the networks they hoped to find there, given Republican control in both the White House and Congress. Salvadore also noted that without these networks, there are “limited opportunities (in D.C.) for someone who has Hillary Clinton’s campaign at the top of their resume.”
CareerLAB advising has remained mostly unaffected, even in light of Trump’s proposed budget cuts to research and arts funding, as well as his constantly shifting stances on immigration.
Director of CareerLAB Matthew Donato said CareerLAB has reached out to international students to offer resources, but domestic students have been “mostly unaffected” to his knowledge. He added that next year, they will likely see more significant changes in the career decisions of seniors, though it is too early to tell. For now, CareerLAB is focused on advising students on legal matters and hiring processes that may have been curtailed due to new rules.
“If students are struggling because of the political environment, come talk to us,” Donato said.