Washington-Area Programs Open Doors

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Students and faculty enjoy high-level access at Dickey D.C. security forum.

Meghan Goyal and Cooper Hyldahl with Spencer Boyer
D.C. Off-Campus Program students Meghan Goyal ’26 and Cooper Hyldahl ’26, right, with Spencer Boyer, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, at the Dartmouth International Security Forum reception. (Photo by Oliver Garside )

Students, staff, and faculty are enjoying access to high-level policymakers in the Washington area this spring.

The third annual Dartmouth International Security Forum in Washington, hosted last week by the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding and the Henry L. Stimson Center, an international peace and security think tank, gave students from the Department of Government’s Washington, D.C. Off-Campus Program and student assistants from Dickey’s War and Peace Fellows the chance to interact with officials from the top echelons of government, NGOs, media, and academia. 

The May 10 forum, convened by the Dickey Center’s Initiative for Global Security—which is dedicated to improving policymaking and inspiring students to explore careers in international affairs—brought together leaders including Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez ’77, a former Dartmouth trustee; U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Arms Control, Deterrence, and Stability Mallory Stewart; and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy Spencer Boyer. Boyer was the 2024 winter term Magro Family Distinguished Fellow in International Affairs at the Dickey Center. 

“I’m delighted that our third annual International Security Forum successfully brought together Dartmouth scholars and D.C. policymakers to grapple with the way forward on tough issues, from nuclear proliferation to modern conflicts, from the geopolitics of trade with China to how public opinion affects U.S. foreign policy. We need this scholar-policy connection to find solutions,” said Victoria Holt, the Norman E. McCulloch Jr. Director of the Dickey Center. 

And the access Dartmouth students experienced is unparalleled, Holt said. “It’s exciting to see Dartmouth students mixing with senior policymakers and alumni. The connections are terrific for helping our undergraduates see roles for themselves in international affairs and problem-solving.”

Brian Finlay, Jose Fernandez and Victoria Holt
Brian Finlay, president of the Stimson Center, left, and Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez ’77, participate in the Dartmouth keynote discussion with Dickey Center Director Victoria Holt. (Photo by Thomas Candon)

The invitation-only conference was convened under the Chatham House Rule, a policy that encourages frank discussion by allowing participants to freely use the information received, but without revealing the identity nor the affiliation of the speakers or participants.

Student assistants from the War and Peace Fellows, Leland Hemgren ’25 and Madeleine Shaw ’25, had unparalleled access, staffing the session which included note-taking responsibilities.

“It was great,” says Hemgren. “Rather than reading a paper that’s been out for a couple years and trying to see how that applies today, I got to listen in on what is going on right now—what are the key issues. And that just made me that much more excited to work in government knowing that these are the problems that our generation is going to have to tackle when we enter public service.”

A reception before the conference brought together attendees, members of the Dartmouth alumni community in D.C., and students from the Washington off-campus program to meet informally. The reception also included a conversation moderated by Holt with Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council Josh Black, and former Assistant to the Administrator of USAID, overseeing the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance Sarah Charles, who is also a current member of the Dickey Center Board of Visitors.

Meghan Goyal ’26, a participant in the D.C. off campus program this term with an internship at The Normandy Group, a bipartisan government relations firm focused on the higher education, agriculture, and military industries, says the access to Washington changemakers is inspiring.

“The Washington, D.C., off-campus study program has provided me the opportunity to expand my professional and educational experiences through my internship as well as group-wide programming,” she says.

The Department of Government’s D.C.-area program, with housing and classroom space across the Potomac River in Arlington County, Va., near the Pentagon, each spring offers Dartmouth students the opportunity to work and take field trips in the capital with support from the Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education. Founded in 1974, the program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this term. 

Professor of Government Lisa Baldez, director of the D.C. away term this year, says the program has launched countless outstanding careers in government and public service. Notable alumni over the years include former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal ’91, a Dartmouth trustee who has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court.

“The Government Department’s off-campus program gives our students a chance to put what they’ve been learning in their classes to use in the policy arena—and to bring back practical insights to their academic work,” Baldez says. 

The experiences range from government, to nonprofits, to NGOs, to the media, she notes.

“It’s one thing to watch Jake Tapper ’91 on TV. To hear him talk about his career and see how shows are actually filmed can be transformative,” Baldez says of the CNN anchor, who is also a Dartmouth trustee.

Bill Platt