Chapman alumna Hannah De Guzman didn’t necessarily think she’d return to Washington, D.C. But when the president of a prominent group of conservative lawyers and judges personally offered her a job, she started packing.
She had made an impression on Eugene Meyer, president of the Federalist Society, while interning there the fall of her senior year. At her job, De Guzman is putting into practice what she learned while working toward her bachelor’s degree at Chapman.
“I’m fascinated most with the idea that political science is not just a subject matter to be studied in the classroom,” said De Guzman. “It’s a facet of our everyday lives that we not only get to experience but also shape … with our decisions and personal involvement.”
De Guzman, 22, majored in political science with an emphasis in American politics and international relations. She graduated in spring 2007, and is now an assistant director for practice groups in the Federalist Society. She coordinates conferences that affect conservative groups, she said. From her position at the Society’s national office in Washington, D.C., she helps plan events like the 2008 National Lawyers Convention, “The People and the Judiciary,” held Nov. 20 through Nov. 22. She also supervises interns, keeping in mind the experience she had as an intern at the Society in fall 2006.
De Guzman’s job entails a lot of research about what is going on in Washington, D.C., and around the nation. The first event she helped organize was a debate about gay marriage and the role of the judiciary, held in October. De Guzman helped by inviting to the debate lawyers and speakers from both sides of the gay marriage issue. Working on an event from the conception stage to its conclusion involves a lot of time spent on the phone, she said. It also entails a lot of extra hours, which Marie De Guzman, Hannah’s mother, has noticed.
“Every time I call her, it seems like she’s always working overtime!” said Marie De Guzman.
That work ethic is part of her culture’s expectations of the oldest child in a family. The De Guzmans emigrated from the Philippines when Hannah De Guzman was 3 1/2 years old. They returned to the Philippines on vacation in 2002. To Marie De Guzman, it was important for her children to have an idea of where they came from and meet family members who still live there.
“That trip was quite an eye-opener for her,” said Marie De Guzman. “She appreciates more what she has in America because there’s so much poverty in the Philippines. She has a more global understanding. She knows there’s more of a world out there than America.”
That kind of understanding is common among many political science majors, according to Gordon Babst, an associate professor of political science under whom De Guzman studied while at Chapman. He thinks there are two main reasons students are drawn to study political science.
“Students want to get involved in public policy in their state, their community,” he said. “But they also have a commitment, passion, and interest in helping solve many of the world’s problems.”
After graduating from Chapman, De Guzman decided to find a job close to home. She wanted to build up her savings account – and her resume. Her job as a human resources assistant and purchasing agent at a manufacturing center was a learning experience from start to finish, she said.
Having her degree helped open doors for her to enter less mundane, routine jobs that entailed repetitious, mechanical tasks, she said.
“The first item that the interviewer mentioned was my bachelor’s degree,” she said about the first job she took after graduation.
The interviewer said the degree set De Guzman apart from other job candidates. Because of it, she would be considered for jobs that required not only technical skills but also ones that called for critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
“Of course, I still had to prove that I wasn’t only good on paper,” said De Guzman.
With today’s job market being tough to get into, earning any kind of liberal arts degree is a smart choice, said Babst.
“It’s not a good time to be needing a job,” he said. “In such times, there’s a demand for people with the skills people with political science degrees would have. We can always write better legislation, … even in a bad economy.”
The critical thinking skills and the ability to evaluate and make judgments one learns as an undergraduate student are invaluable in the workplace, said Babst.
“As a general rule, a more traditional liberal arts education is what you need,” he said. “Regardless of your major, a liberal arts education delivers.”
At the manufacturing center, De Guzman started out as the company’s receptionist and administrative assistant. But the critical thinking and problem-solving skills she had honed in college proved to be assets. She moved up the ranks in the company, eventually being promoted to agent. It was a position that came with more responsibilities.
“Management’s faith in me to accomplish the tasks I was assigned stemmed from their knowledge of the … skills needed to gain a bachelor’s degree,” she said.
Marie De Guzman said her daughter was insecure about her potential when she graduated from college. But she impressed the people for whom she worked.
“Management found out she was a college graduate and was surprised because she applied for a receptionist job,” said Marie De Guzman.
After her daughter had been at her first job for a year, Marie De Guzman said she noticed that she needed a change.
“I knew she was getting restless,” said Marie De Guzman. “We knew she felt like she wasn’t getting anywhere.”
Encouraged by her parents, Hannah De Guzman looked for job opportunities that would more closely match what she had prepared for in college. She wanted to put into action what she loved to study and was passionate about.
“With their support and prayers, I launched myself into the exasperating world of online job hunting,” she said.
The personal job offer from Meyer and the Federalist Society came faster than De Guzman was prepared for. It was during her second day of online job searching, submitting her resume to every conservative job bank she could find, that Meyer called. De Guzman reflected on her internship with the Society as she considered his offer.
“It wasn’t too difficult making the decision to return back to D.C. and work for an organization I respected and had prior experience with,” she said.
She had her parents’ support in taking the job but was also encouraged by what seemed like God guiding her path, she said. And God’s providence continued even after she accepted the job, she said.
“God blessed me with a roommate who I had known in junior high,” said De Guzman. “She had taught my Sunday school class … prior to her move to Woodbridge, Va., to work in D.C.”
But even with her strong Christian faith, the transition in July to begin her life in Washington, D.C., was not easy.
“It wasn’t the smoothest, since I had to purchase my first car on my own in Virginia,” she said. “And my original residence south of D.C. was only available my first two months out here.”
Despite those difficulties, her work was exciting and kept her busy. She said she was also blessed to have family near her new home.
“I have an aunt who lives in Virginia who I visit on most weekends,” said De Guzman.
Since she graduated from college, De Guzman said her career goals have changed course.
“Initially, I thought I was headed towards law school,” she said. “Right now, I think I might be more interested in policy research and working for think-tanks.”
The works she’s doing now for the Federalist Society, along with the experience she gained from her first job out of college, will help her toward those goals, she said.
“Considering who I work with now and the network I’m in, it wouldn’t be too difficult to pursue [those goals] once I gain a master’s degree.”
In part because her internship with the Federalist Society proved so worthwhile, De Guzman recommended that other students take advantage of internships as well.
“Not only are they fun, since it would be in the field you’re studying, but also essential for networking and bolstering that resume,” she said.
Babst agrees. He said students, especially at Chapman, have special opportunities simply because they are in school. He and other faculty members always encourage students to engage in co-curricular activities, he said.
“They can do government internships, nonprofit internships, and participate in student government,” he said. “Do more than just be in class.”
He also recommends that students study abroad and take travel courses to augment their studies at a university. Today’s larger companies and organizations are far more diversified than in the past, said Babst. The experience gained through internships and traveling abroad helps students develop the language skills and understanding of pluralism and diversity that businesses are looking for, he said.
“They’re not looking for just the MBA, but the student who has developed more habits of mind, the sort that a liberal arts education ideally delivers,” said Babst.
The bottom line, said De Guzman, is that students and graduates should not be dismayed if their first job isn’t what they envisioned.
“Every job is a learning experience,” she said. “You might not enjoy creating Excel spreadsheets for electrical components, but you’re acquiring skills that will bolster your resume and expand your career possibilities.”