Civic Scholars Gephardt News

5 Years Out: Reflections from Class of 2014 Civic Scholars

We asked members of the Class of 2014 about their experiences with Civic Scholars and about where they are now.

Tiffini Hyatt
I’m currently working as a kindergarten teacher in Chicago. For my civic project, I worked on teacher development with D.C. Public Schools. My experience there confirmed that I wanted to teach and, perhaps, work in educational leadership one day. It also gave me the opportunity to test out a new city, which I ended up falling in love with and moving to after graduation.

I would encourage current Civic Scholars to identify whatever it is that excites them and use that as a professional “North Star.” With each opportunity that comes your way, consider how it propels you closer to your North Star. I got this idea from a quote by Myleik Teele, founder of curlBOX and all-around professional superstar: “Your salary is not a bribe to forget your dreams…. Your job [should] provide experience for your dreams.”

Josh Aiken
I am based in New Haven, CT where I’m a first-year in a joint JD/PhD program in History and African-American Studies. My research is focused on the relationship between race and displacement, namely the history of criminalization in the Americas in the 19th and 20th centuries.

My civic project was based in Berlin where I considered how the history of Nazism informed contemporary conversations around displacement and human rights. I specifically worked with North African refugees who were protesting mistreatment at the hands of the German government and police. The experience gave me a way to think comparatively about race and criminality and to consider how the development of human rights in the 20th century is inextricable from histories of colonialism, imperialism, and racial capitalism. Whose human rights needed to be respected is not as simple a question as it seems.

The advice I would give to current scholars is to zoom in and then zoom out. Think particularly about what you are most interested in — not what you tell people you’re interested, but how you would describe to yourself what you like to think about and spend time doing. Be specific. If you like watching movies, what movies do you like, when do you watch them, and what do those movies make you feel and why is that set of feelings important to you. Take what you discover from a period of self-interrogation and think broadly about the contexts in which you could think more about these ideas and issues. Civic Scholars, for me, was a way to think about the relationship between national shame and race in Germany such that I could think more critically about how national narratives in the Americas elide native dispossession and racial slavery as their foundations. It also helped me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated: the way that community activists centered the voices of refugees in Berlin was incredibly inspiring and educational for me. Use Civic Scholars as an opportunity to take ideas you’ve thought about before in a new context — you won’t regret having the experience and then getting to come back and process it with the incredible community Civic Scholars provides.

Hallie Dobkin
I am currently living in Cambridge, Ma finishing up my second year of medical school. For my civic project I helped design and run a summer camp for grade school kids in inner city St. Louis. The summer camp was focused on storytelling and exposure to STEM subjects. We partnered with Bon Appetit on campus to provide hot lunches every day and with other community organizations for field trips and visits focused on exposure to science. I also worked one on one with campers to create a “talent day” in which each camper shared his or her skills with the rest of the group.
My biggest takeaway from the summer was the importance of community partnership in the success and impact of any project as well as the importance of building in sustainability at every level.

My advice to current scholars is to dig deep and consider your motivations and intentions when designing and implementing a project. Don’t be afraid to use your network (Civic Scholars alum and beyond).

Dylan Simonsen
After graduation, I stayed in St. Louis and worked as a full-time teacher and communications partner at Flance Early Learning Center for a year. I then moved to Washington D.C. where I worked in several consultative sales roles at CEB – a global best practice research and advisory firm. Last April, I left my job at CEB to travel internationally for seven months, visiting nearly 30 countries across Asia, Europe, Oceania, and the Middle East. Upon my return to the U.S., I moved back to Colorado where I am currently working at a bar and earning my certification to teach English abroad this fall. I plan to teach internationally in South America and/or Southeast Asia for the next few years.

For my civic project, I worked as a volunteer counselor at St. Louis Graduates’ High School-to-College Center on the Loop. I primarily supported students with disabilities, advising on the application process and accommodations requests. There were countless takeaways from the program but one that sticks out is the importance of listening. Whether directly soliciting feedback from stakeholders, observing before taking action, or just lending an ear, the program and my cohort helped me to grow as a listener in my everyday life.

As an undergrad, I wish someone would have told me to worry less about planning out each step of my future. The last five years have been different than anything I ever could have imagined or predicted when I was getting ready to graduate.