AH: What motivated you to become a YAC leader?
MW: I was fairly involved in the college as a student, and moving to D.C., I got swept up living in a new city and starting a new job. A few years out of school, I joined the YAC out of the desire to give back to U-M. Michigan had afforded me so many opportunities and joining the YAC gave me the opportunity to connect with other U-M students living in the area who shared similar passions.
I also attended the Development Summer Internship Program (D-SIP) Showcase, and LSA’s D-SIP intern, Noah, told me about his summer project involving the LSA Young Alumni Council. After learning about what he did all summer, I wanted to get more involved.
EV: I originally moved to D.C. knowing almost nobody, U-M alumni no less. I initially joined YAC to find other Michigan grads in my new home away from home and wanted to meet others similarly interested in volunteering, mentoring interns, and just having fun. I was finding myself already doing most of these things elsewhere, and thought this was a unique way to continue these interests with Wolverines here in D.C.
The core mission of YAC paired well with my interests as an undergrad and seemed like a natural way to continue contributing post-graduation. During my time at Michigan, I spent the last year and a half building a think tank, the Michigan Foreign Policy Council (MFPC), as a way to mentor students in social science research, provide workshops on specific foreign policy issues and how to thrive as an intern in D.C., and generally encourage interdisciplinary debate on foreign policy topics. My goal was to not only seed interest in, but develop the skills of, future policy and political leaders from U-M who for academic, financial, or any other reason couldn’t make it to D.C. themselves. Many of these participants have since come to D.C., and I hope the pipeline can continue bringing smart, motivated LSA students to our nation’s Capital.
AH: What are your hopes for the D.C. YAC?
MW: My hope would be that council members and those who attend YAC events feel engaged and connected back to U-M. The D.C. council created three pillars to focus on—social, volunteerism, and professional development. Our goal is to really grow out members in those three areas by giving back to the community, connecting with one another, and being able to celebrate that common connection back to Michigan. I would love for recent grads coming to D.C. after graduation to be excited moving here and have a home away from Ann Arbor.
EV: After the D.C. chapter had stopped meeting actively, I was asked whether or not I would be willing to step up and revitalize the D.C. Young Alumni Council. I’ve had a lot of fun so far meeting Wolverines from all walks of life in D.C., their liberal arts education taking them to all corners of D.C. Our members really take the initiative in making the D.C. YAC what they want it to be, which is important for our success.
Being in D.C., a place of vibrant culture, gives us many opportunities to have fun, network, and make a difference in the community. Though we’re still identifying ways to plug-in throughout the rest of the year, I’m looking forward to re-establishing the young alumni council as a great place for young alumni to find their niche. We’ll have a lot going on during the summer months, and I’m hoping to grow our presence through some of these events.
AH: What are you looking forward to most this upcoming year?
MW: We haven’t planned out what the rest of the year will look like yet, but we’ll be focusing on connecting more with U-M grads and reminiscing/feeling nostalgic about our shared experiences at Michigan.
EV: I’m most looking forward to seeing the diversity of interests of our members play out and what we’re able to do as a group. Everyone brings a unique perspective to the table, and the aggregate of our ideas seems unlimited.
AH: Is there anything unique that your council is doing or thinking about doing that you think other councils would be interested in hearing about?
MW: We’ve talked a lot about how we can connect with U-M students coming to D.C. in the summer. We’re thinking about hosting mixers with the Public Service Internship Program (P-SIP) and Michigan in Washington (MIW) cohorts. We’d like to be able to connect with them and share career advice.
EV: I’m not sure there’s anything necessarily unique. I think giving our members flexibility to make the YAC what they want it to be is the key to keeping everybody engaged and excited to come to our events.
There are two major things that make our council stand out. One is the public service aspect. Several U-M groups bring LSA students to D.C. to intern, study and expand their LSA educations. These are interns and current students who may end up becoming future young alumni in the city, so it gives our council the great opportunity to network with them and build a pipeline to our council. Additionally, the city of D.C. also provides a backbone of free activities for the council such as the Smithsonian and art galleries. The city is very vibrant and there is always something to do.
AH: What is your favorite part about leading the YAC?
MW: I’ve really enjoyed getting to work with Evan, because it feels like we complement each other in leading the council. When you lead, you get to know everyone involved in the council and are familiar with the members. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the members and thinking of ways to connect them back to U-M.
EV: I’d have to say having a group of people with shared interests who are passionate Wolverines and grateful for their experiences goes a long way. Reliving our Pizza House glory days really tugs at those nostalgic moments and gives a shared sense of community. It’s nice to have that with you in a city full of transplants from all across the country. Is also great to have a co-chair to lead the council with.