The Common Good’s Next Generation: Bowdoin Public Service Students Prepare for Immersive D.C. Experience


The inaugural cohort of students selected for the new Bowdoin Public Service Initiative is preparing to travel to Washington, D.C., on Saturday. For seven days, they will explore the chambers and hallways of the U.S. government and connected institutions, meeting with alumni and extended Bowdoin community members at all levels of the government, as well as with other experts in political and policy areas.

The immersion trip to D.C. is the culmination of a seven-week program at Bowdoin in which the students gained a broad understanding of government and public service work. Each of the weekly seminars was taught by an alumnus, professor, or visitor, and covered topics such as the judiciary, the legislative branch, the executive branch, U.S. foreign policy, campaigns and elections, and budgeting and economic policy.

The program grew out of a series of discussions with Ambassador Thomas Pickering ’53, H’84, who wants to expose and inspire more young people to consider careers in public service. “The ability for people to operate in service to their fellow man and woman is an important part of being a human being,” Pickering said recently. “And being able to make a contribution in that regard in whatever you do is something I think the college should continue to promote as a very important part of how students will think about their future in society and life.”

The 2018 Bowdoin Public Service students with former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell ’54, H’93. Besides the 10 sophomores and two seniors going to D.C., five juniors received fellowships for government/public service internships in Washington, D.C.

The ten sophomore student participants were selected through a competitive application process. Two seniors recruited to be trip leaders, Scout Gregerson ’18 and Christopher Hernández-Turcios ’18, helped plan the program with Sarah Chingos, who is the McKeen Center for the Common Good’s associate director for public service.

The interests of the BPS 10 participants — Victor Dankens, Theo Gardner-Puschak, Olivia Giles, Eskedar Girmash, Praise Hall, Katherine Henneberger, Artur Kalandarov, Oratile Monkhei, Elise Morano, and Abigail Silsby — are diverse. Some want to pursue careers in medicine and public health, others want to dedicate themselves to protecting human rights. The program purposefully sought students with a range of career aspirations and academic focuses, and not just, say, government majors, said Hernández-Turcios. “There are different ways to navigate what it means to work for the common good,” he said.

Katherine Henneberger ’20, who is interested in human rights policy, said she has appreciated learning about the speakers’ careers over the past seven weeks. Seminar lecturers have included Rep. Tom Allen ’67, Karen Walker ’84 (a Bowdoin trustee and lawyer in DC), and young alumni who have worked on campaigns and elections. “It’s been very interesting to hear from them and reflect on how could I fit into these different jobs, or how could I effect change in these different departments,” she said.

Hearing these stories has also moved Eskedar Girmash ’20, who said a highlight of the program so far has been “seeing how people, who were in our shoes during their time at Bowdoin, really propelled their education and career to the remarkable positions they’re in now, and realizing that that could be any one of us.”

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