When Brielle Valenza ’21 arrived in Washington for D.C. Immersion , she imagined her future would be in journalism. She and fellow Syracuse University sophomores spent the week visiting corporations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. They met numerous Syracuse alumni who shared their career insights and advice. The experience was pivotal. “I realized I didn’t want to be reporting the news—I wanted to be making it!” Valenza says. A Renée Crown University Honors student now in her third year, Valenza credits the alumni-funded D.C. Immersion program with helping her find a path that’s truly right for her. She switched to a dual major in political science and psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and plans to work in criminal law and, eventually, with the FBI.
Washington, D.C., is just one of the powerhouse locations where Syracuse University has established home bases to support a wide range of immersive learning experiences. In Los Angeles and in New York City, too, Syracuse students find work in their fields of interest, gain professional skills, make career-building connections, and experience the camaraderie and support of a powerful alumni network. Students test their academic training in a real-world context while tapping into the assets unique to each city. Coast to coast, the Orange experience is transformative.
A Capital Experience
Experience in the nation’s capital is essential for an education in policy, public administration or international relations, says Ryan Williams, former assistant dean for Washington programs at the Maxwell School. The school has had a presence in D.C. since Professor Emeritus Matthew Bonham established international relations programming there in 1994. In 2013, the Maxwell School launched a strategic partnership with a global think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies , providing students access to policy experts and grounding their education in meaningful context. “My experience in D.C. allowed me to connect with experts in my field and attend high-level events. It confirmed my passion for this profession and opened the doors to where I am now,” says Carol Marina Tojeiro ’18, who completed dual master’s degrees in economics and international relations. Tojeiro now works at the International Finance Corporation on programs fostering gender equality in economic opportunity.
Students in other programs also come to D.C. to work and learn in some of the most important institutions in the world. Among them are graduate students in broadcast and digital journalism, whose capstone projects give them the opportunity to interview members of Congress and see their work on commercial broadcast stations nationwide. Students in the College of Law participate in an externship program, gaining real-world experience in top federal government, judicial, private practice and public interest placements while making connections with the robust College of Law alumni network in the capital.
Orange in the Big Apple
In 2001, a generous gift from College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) alumna Arielle Tepper ’94 seeded what became the first signature immersion program in New York City. The Tepper Semester , based at the University’s newest academic facility in the city, the Fisher Center, offers students a bridge to the professional entertainment and theatrical world, along with conservatory style training. And students now have many other options for plunging into the city’s unparalleled energy, as well. Through the School of Education’s Bridge to the City program, students teach in NYC public and charter schools, often in classrooms led by alumni. Those studying journalism or communication might enroll in Newhouse NYC and work at media companies, take classes taught by working professionals and benefit from alumni mentorship. Many participate in shorter-term immersions focused on the arts, finance or startup and technology companies.
One of NYC’s assets is a powerful real estate industry. Students in the School of Architecture’s city program learn hands-on about economics and policies that shape the built environment. “New York City is a great laboratory to explore current urban issues. The principles students learn here apply around the world,” says Angela Co, program director.
“Students work on real-world topics and research, explore and design on-site,” says Zhendong (Jayden) Long ’17. “This gives us a realistic and practical approach.” While in NYC with Syracuse, Long interned at a real estate development firm and, inspired by his experience, went on to enroll at Columbia University for a master’s in real estate development.
Illuminating Experiences in LA
During the Syracuse University Los Angeles Semester, students learn what it takes to thrive in the entertainment industry. The program emphasizes professional development and helps students access important institutions and people. For Marnie Kritzman, a VPA film major graduating in 2020, going behind the scenes in Hollywood’s major studios was a highlight, as was connecting with Syracuse alumni . “The alumni in LA are so supportive! The entertainment industry is all about networking, and I feel so much more secure now about getting a job after graduation,” she says.
Sam Shapiro ’19 found it galvanizing to learn from professionals in the industry. “They are in the thick of it every day, at the top of their game. The caliber of professionalism the professors shared with us—it was inspiring,” he says. As a multimedia and film capital, Los Angeles is also the setting for immersive experiences for students of animation, drama and fine art, including Art Week in LA and the Turner Semester, which offer opportunities for M.F.A. students to engage deeply in the LA art scene.
The programs are as distinct as their settings, but all of them offer students opportunities to forge close and meaningful relationships with alumni. When these students dive into the world beyond graduation, regardless of where they are located, they find a soft landing in Orange Nation.