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King University News :: Making Connections in the Capitol

For the last ten years, King College freshmen have been experiencing the nation's capitol, Washington D.C., and making connections that will last a lifetime.

The unique class trip is far more than a sightseeing tour. There are multiple goals for Experience D.C., said Matt Peltier, King's dean of students. It's a shared experience designed to build cohort unity, through interaction with faculty, staff, and King alumni outside the classroom setting. You also have this adventure in common with King sophomores, juniors, and seniors, as well as alumni who went in previous years. There is an exploration piece - getting to see how what you are doing theoretically in the classroom, in your major, can turn into your vocation. The trip is also designed to show students how vast the options are for careers within the field they choose.

While students are challenged, faculty and staff also provide a supportive role and create an environment that helps make the transition from home to college student easier. It is wonderful to see how much they grow over just a few days. The experience helps students transition from young adult to adult, said Peltier. There are many ways in which we are purposeful in serving students. At the same time, the DC experience gives them some perspective. They are a small fish in a big pond. However, there are connections that can be made to broaden their scope.

Tracs that students participate in include an art study at the National Gallery of Art; discussions of the Human Genome project at the Smithsonian Institute; and responding to human suffering at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. They also explore national landmarks, memorials, and museums. Destinations include the new World War II Memorial, and many others. Students also honor the nation's war veterans in the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

The first stop on the Experience D.C. trip every year is the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. Students have the opportunity to walk through the Reynolds Garden, named for a King College alumnus, Richard S. Reynolds (1900). Memorialized in the garden, Reynolds was the visionary industrialist-poet who foresaw his country's inevitable need for aluminum. During the late 1930's, Reynolds responded to that need by putting his fortune and reputation in the balance to produce enough aluminum for the United States to build and sustain the air force that gave the Allies overwhelming air superiority for D-Day.

Another aspect of Experience D.C. is the alumni connection. In the past, alumni gatherings have been scheduled to coincide with the trip, with hopes of bringing alumni and students together. During the last several trips, alumni have also been invited to experience some of the tracs along with the freshmen.

We have a tremendously successful array of alumni, said Finley Green, director of alumni and career services. There is great purpose in having one know the other. It's all about connecting. Both students and alumni can connect because of King. It is a tremendous opportunity for students simply to know where the alumni have come from - to see the continuum. There are bright, articulate, caring young people coming through the gates of King College every day. The alumni show the freshman there are a vast array of options for both career and life choices.

Connecting with alumni provides students the ability to see how so many of King's graduates have and continue to change the world. The students are part of that tradition now, and our expectation is that they come through, and, in four years, mature and go forward to do great things, said Green. Our students are already doing this now. They do it every day in the community, on mission trips, and with each other. Any time you can tie the old and the new together, you are furthering the King vision of building meaningful lives for achievement and cultural transformation.

When the students return from D.C., there is always a new dynamic and energy to their interactions. They have more than just fun stories of adventure to tell. They have become a part of that family connection for which King is so well known. Some do come back with a different appreciation of what they want their end goal to be and what they ultimately want accomplish, said Peltier. Our hope is, at the very least, it starts them thinking not just what am I going to do tomorrow or next semester, but how are all the things I have the opportunity to do over the next four years going to be the launch pad for what I do beyond this. How do my choices shape my life, rather than just my today?