The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Former student body president moderates panel

While many students were submitting their votes for a new student body president on Wednesday evening, Patrick Kobler, the 2009-2010 SMU student body president, was moderating a career panel designed to help students penetrate the politics and policy job market.

The event, Hilltop to Hilltop, was presented by the Hegi Career Center and was hosted in the Hughes-Trigg East Ballroom. More than 50 people attended.

Five speakers, four of which graduated from SMU and one that Kobler calls an “honorary graduate,” provided counsel for students through moderated questions and an open Q&A session for students with high aspirations.

“Having graduated from SMU myself not too long ago,” Kobler said, “I feel that the school’s graduates are not just well-rounded, but actively want to help people.”

Much of the panel’s advice revolved around activities students can get involved in while they’re still in school to make their paths to Washington easier.

“Leave no stone unturned,” Warren Seay said. “Take as many opportunities as you can and apply for as many programs as you can while you’re here at SMU.”

Seay had several internships before graduating from SMU in 2010, including two in Washington, D.C. He’s now the president of the DeSoto ISD board of directors.

Seay believes that the reason he has been able to have so much success at such a young age is due to his work ethic.

“When you’re young, you have to work ten times harder than anyone else around you,” Seay said. “If you’re supposed to work until eight, you have to work until 10 if you want to get noticed.”

Other board members were in agreement with Seay.

Rob Johnson, a 1997 SMU graduate, managed two campaigns during the 2012 presidential election – Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry – but he wasn’t always doing such meaningful work.

“My first internship, I was taking this dude’s laundry to the cleaners,” Johnson said, “But I didn’t complain about it. I worked hard and I got noticed.”

Johnson feels that the ability to stay modest is important in any internship and the rest of the panel felt the same.

“We all step into internships thinking we’re going to change the world in our first six months there,” Hannah Abney, director of media relations at the Bush Institute, said, “But there are a lot of smart, talented people out there who want to do the same thing.”

Abney sees some of these smart, talented people every day, working as interns at the Bush Center. Many of these are SMU students.

But Abney says that once you get your foot in the door with an internship, the hard work needs to continue.

“You can always tell who is a worker and who is just there because they want to put it on their resume,” Abney said, “First impressions really make a big difference.”

Abney, a 2002 SMU graduate, didn’t begin her career at the school wanting to work anywhere close to Washington. She was a vocal performance major, but her junior year she had a vocal chord injury that required surgery and could never sing the same again.

She decided then to pursue her backup plan, a communications degree, and ended up spending a semester abroad in Washington D.C. Four years later, at age 24, she was named the assistant press secretary to Vice President Dick Cheney.

“Stay the course, but let life take you where it will,” Abney said. “You can make all the plans you want, but sometimes that’s not where you end up.”

Another panelist, Anne McDonald, who works in Laura Bush’s office, echoed that sentiment.

“My cousin, who worked in the Gore/Lieberman campaign, helped me land my first job, in the Bush Administration of all places,” McDonald said. “You never know how a job is going to land into your lap.”

The panel, which also included Dallas Judge Dennise Garcia, dismissed after a quick presentation about Hilltop on the Hill, a program sponsored by the communications department that takes 10 to 15 students to Washington D.C. for four days during the fall.

“It’s not a tourist trip,” said Candy Crespo, the assistant director of the Maguire Center, which helps promote the event. “It exists so that when you’re ready to graduate and move up there, you’ve already got a network in place.”

Students seemed generally pleased after the panel. Several student senators including Parliamentarian Travis Carlisle attended.

Carlisle, a senior majoring in economics and public policy, is looking at jobs in sales for when he graduates, but he acknowledges that one day, he might find his way back to politics. 

“I might end up in Washington down the road,” Carlisle said, “And this panel, it just provided so much help in case I do.”

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