BRET Trainees Get a Look “Inside the Beltway”
by Suneethi Sivakumaran, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
This past fall, the BRET Office of Career Development and the Vanderbilt ASPIRE Program partnered with the Vanderbilt Office of Federal Relations and other campus offices to provide trainees an externship opportunity in federal stem policy and advocacy. Nine participants were sponsored by the ASPIRE program to attend this two-day immersion experience held October 16-17, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
This program gave trainees the opportunity to learn how federal STEM policy is made and the role that advocacy can play in influencing federal research funding. During their visit to Washington, trainees met with a variety of officials, including a number of Vanderbilt University alumni, who work in the executive and legislative branches of the government, as well as multiple scientific societies and associations.
Participants sponsored by the ASPIRE Program included biomedical sciences students and postdoctoral fellows from a variety of disciplines and expertise, all of whom were interested in exploring career opportunities in science policy and its related fields.
“The federal STEM policy and advocacy event was very effective at introducing me to science policy and the different avenues of work associated with it. I enjoyed the sessions from professionals in the field describing the roads they took to get into science policy,” said Gloria Laryea, Ph.D., a student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Vanderbilt.
Participants were exposed to a full agenda that included an introduction to the history of U.S. science and technology research policy, introduction to the federal budget process, and background on the role of coalitions in policymaking. In addition, trainees heard first-hand from staffers describing what it is like to work on Capitol Hill. Participants took on the role of senior legislators in a mock congressional conference committee. These activities gave participants hands-on experience as science policy advocates and provided valuable opportunities to network and learn from the experts.
Other partnering programs included the Vanderbilt School of Engineering, the Vanderbilt Graduate School, and the Center for Student Professional Development.