A hectic blast in Boston

Prof. Yangmo Ku, far right, with the students who had the opportunity to attend the Boston trip. Picture by Angelina Coronado.

For 12 lucky students, a new Norwich program provided a week-long, first-hand introduction to key state and federal agencies – and a chance to line up potential jobs and internships.
Norwich’s Peace and War Center promoted the first annual Boston Policy Week trip, which took the students to the state’s capital, where they established valuable connections with nine different agencies, using a broad range of Norwich alumni as contacts.
“I am really glad to see our students exposed to that kind of environment and to have nice opportunities. They can change their vision or dreams because of these experiences,” said Yangmo Ku, a political science professor and the associate director of the Peace and War Center.

The trip took place in October, with students selected from majors ranging from psychology and political science to history and criminal justice, beginning with a three-hour long bus journey to Boston, accompanied by professor Ku.
The students stayed in an oceanfront home near downtown, but they would not have much free time to enjoy it because their trip was packed full of activities, briefings, and tours of state and government agencies. These included the DEA, FBI, FEMA, Massachusetts Statehouse, Homeland Security, MITRE, Joint Forces Headquarters, the House of Representatives, and Mass. Department of Health.
“I wanted our students to have the opportunity to interact with high profile speakers from different agencies in Boston. By being exposed to that kind of experience they can plan their future, or their future plan can be changed,” Ku said. “I really want students to broaden their perspectives rather than just fixing their eyes on a certain field.”
A week prior to the trip, students were handed state emergency simulations. After splitting into two teams, they started preparing their presentations for the FEMA director, in a competition that defined the best plan of action between the two opposing teams.
“It was a state level emergency response scenario, where each of us were assigned a role. We had to work together in our teams to see who could come up with the best results,” said Ben Voll, 22, a history major from Cape Coral, Fla.
In addition to solving the simulation, at the end of the week, students participated in numerous briefings and tours in several federal government and state agencies. According to the students’ feedback, the simulation remained the highlight of the trip, since it gave them a chance to put their skills to the test.
“I am extremely satisfied,” Voll said. “Some of the training I have received applied directly to the simulation, and it allowed me to see how a state-level emergency response simulation works.”
For many students, an unexpected benefit was that networking with Norwich alumni not only exposed them to job opportunities in different fields but even possible internships in their dream careers.
“I did a lot of networking with the alumni on the trip. In many of the agencies we went to, our points of contact were alumni, so it helped me significantly,” Voll said. “I believe I received a federal government internship for fall of 2019.”
Voll was not the only one who hit the jackpot when it came to internship opportunities. The DEA had also given Jennifer Zarycki, 20, a criminal justice major from N.J., the opportunity to apply for an internship. Even though she realizes the extreme level of competition in this field, Zarycki was happy to just have the chance to try.
“I have always wanted to be a criminologist, and after visiting the DEA, I had the opportunity to talk with the alumni and express my interests,” Zarycki said. “If it wasn’t for going to Boston, I wouldn’t have known all the DEA does.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration, which is part of the Justice Department, was a major hit among students who attended the trip. Aaron Patterson, 21, a senior political science major, from Mount Juliet, Tenn., mentioned that the FBI and DEA were both very forthright in suggesting internship opportunities. Although he was not actively looking for an internship, he knew the opportunity was there, especially because of that Norwich connection they shared.
“I have done a couple of trips like this, and every time the alumni are amazing. They are wholeheartedly embodied in the Norwich values. No matter what year they graduated, there is always that connection,” Patterson said.
Students were not the only ones who were enthusiastic about the opportunities and events of the Boston Policy Week. Ku, who is from South Korea, shared his own personal takeaways from the trip as well.
“Personally, I have never had the opportunity to meet with an FBI agent or any kind of government officials. As a political science professor, it was a privilege to interact with them and listen to their opinions of different kinds of security, intelligence, drug, and organized crime issues. It was a fabulous opportunity for me to learn some first-hand knowledge from them,” Ku said.
While Patterson was extremely satisfied with his experience on the trip to Boston, he also said he wished for an extended trip in the future. Students spent four incredibly busy days, with little time to simply be tourists around the city.
“It was a little bit tough to be going all day and still have to work on the simulation,” Patterson said. “I think I might add a day to just spread the visits out.”
The professor explained that the trip had a similar format to previous trips his U.S. Policy class has taken to Washington D.C.
“Over the last two years I have had the opportunity to take my students to Washington D.C. as a part of the U.S. Policy course I am teaching every spring semester. This program is kind of similar to the Washington D.C. program, but it is within a shorter time period,” Ku said.
For the spring class, students had to pay for flights or gas in order to make it to Washington D.C. Due to the longer distance, and the expensive costs of flight tickets or gas, the Washington trip tends to be challenging on a financial level.
Boston is much more accessible and less costly for students. “I did not know anything about it until I got the email” Zarycki said. “We had to pay $100 (to attend), but only had to pay for three meals. So even if students were struggling financially there was still help provided, which was nice.”
The main differences between the two trips was the length of time and cost, as the professor noted. “A three hours driving distance, it is pretty doable in terms of logistics. In terms of cost it is much less expensive.”
According to Ku, there are high hopes for the future of the program. He is planning on making the trip a yearly event for Norwich students. “It should be an annual event every fall, initiated by the Peace and War Center. Although, it could be extended, or take a different format,” Ku said.
Ku is mulling other ideas for such outings to Boston, not only extending the trip, but creating a more diverse student body to attend. Students from the business and engineering departments may be eligible to participate in the future. “If I have any other chances, I would include a program in New York, or a different part of the world,” Ku said.
Ku explained that before taking part to trips like this, he was not a fan of “experimental learning.” His entire perspective changed after bringing his students to new places, providing them valuable lessons, connections, and knowledge while interacting in an actual working environment. On that point, he gets no argument from Zarycki.
“We had the ability to network and also a hands-on experience. I wish more students had this opportunity,” Zarycki said. “Sitting in a classroom there’s only so much you can learn and read about, but actually going to the FBI and DEA, and see what they do on a regular basis was definitely worth it.”

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