Brian Washburn, CCAS BA ’97, is a loyal volunteer for GW Alumni Career Services. We asked him about his time at GW and what it means to volunteer as an alumnus.
What does being a GW alumnus mean to you?
When I think of being a GW alumnus, several things come to mind. First, for several years, I put the “G” in GW (I was George the mascot), which is still a fun story to tell when I talk about the glory days of college. Second, it means that I’m included among the ranks of other alumni such as Colin Powell, Jackie Kennedy, Mark Warner and Eric Cantor – not bad company to keep. Third, and perhaps most lasting, is that it’s allowed me to be a member of a community that has lasted long after I received my diploma – whether it’s running into other alumni at organized events, just bumping into someone and finding out we both went to GW or accessing the community via LinkedIn.
What advice do you have for current GW students?
When I met my freshman year roommates, we all laughed because we all used some variation of the phrase: “I’d like to attend GW in order to use the world as my classroom…” in our admission essays. We had no idea what it meant, but it seemed like something you’re supposed to write in your college application. It turned out that in the heart of DC the world truly was at our fingertips. My advice: take advantage of that world. If you want to be a Peace Corps volunteer, visit the Peace Corps office in DC. If you want to explore the idea of working for the government, find an internship (keep in mind that internships outside of Capitol Hill will allow you to do more than just lick envelopes and make photocopies!). Looking for inspiration to write that 10 page final paper? Bring your laptop to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and let the sights and sounds, the history and the atmosphere inspire you.
How did your education from the Columbian College (specifically your major in Political Science) help shape your career path?
When I chose Political Science as a major, I figured I’d work on the Hill… maybe even run for office someday. Fast forward 15 years and I’ve never touched the world of politics. CCAS and Political Science not only taught me about politics in various contexts, but also taught me how to think. Therein is the ultimate prize of a college education: learning how to think critically. Political Science is the study of how people have worked together in order to get things done (and how people didn’t work together and didn’t get things done). For 15 years, my career has been focused on corporate training and organizational development which, at its core, is about studying how people work together in order to create more effective organizations. My Political Science background has informed how I look at various situations, conflicts and challenges and how best to move forward so that as many people as possible come out ahead.
Describe your experience with the GWebinars program and your volunteer efforts.
Developing training and presentations is my job, it’s my passion, and it’s my art form. And when I learned about the opportunity to volunteer with the GW community through developing and delivering a webinar or two, it was a no-brainer – developing and delivering presentations is what I do for fun. Michael Steelman, director, Alumni Career Services, was incredibly supportive and helpful in the design and delivery of both webinars I’ve led – “Using LinkedIn to Find my Dream Job” and “You’re One Presentation Away from Changing the World.” I received so many LinkedIn connections and nice emails following each webinar. I love being able to connect with current students and alumni through this type of volunteer effort.
How has being a GW volunteer impacted you personally?
Volunteering with the GW community has given me an opportunity to be part of something bigger. I’ve worked with small(ish) non-profit organizations for most of my career. The work is rewarding and life-changing. At the same time, working in the non-profit space has prevented me from amassing great wealth and riches and creating a scholarship fund in my name or buying a new scoreboard for the Smith Center. When I was a student at GW, I benefited from various scholarship funds, and while I’m able to make a modest annual gift to the university in recognition of what the university was able to give me, I feel that being able to share my talents and skills is another way to give back to the community that helped pave the way for the success I’ve had thus far in my career.