Whenever I tell my friends and colleagues in the DC Metro area that I’m originally from Massachusetts, the question I get every time is “How did you end up 500 miles away from home?” To answer that question, I’d like to talk to you all a bit about one of our alma mater’s favorite concepts: holding doors.
I was on LinkedIn, when I received a message from someone I didn’t know. He said “Hi, my name is Kevin and I graduated JMU class of 1989. Are you open to the DC area? I really like what you did at *internship from last summer*. We are looking for an intern at my firm, Spectrum Careers, in Tysons Corner. We have 25 employees and 100 consultants- of the 25 employees, 7 are JMU folks. Let me know if you’d be interested in a call to discuss.” I interviewed with Kevin and his team, and got the internship- along with another JMU student, Olivia Mathias. My first door was held open by Kevin Kelly.
Flash forward to the next spring- I landed an amazing internship at an international law firm, K&L Gates, in DC. It was a normal day at work where I was in my cubicle plugging away, when my direct supervisor tells me one of the senior executives at the firm wanted to talk to me. It turns out he was Darrell Conner, JMU class of 1991. We talked about JMU, what it was like then and what it’s like now. Through our conversation that day, Darrell struck up a relationship with Dr. David Jones of the Political Science department that I had graduated from, and from that point Washington Semester JMU students have been interning at the firm ever since. I like to think I helped hold a door open that day for current JMU students looking for opportunities to explore their career options in the DC area.
This brings me to how I got my full-time job at Booz Allen Hamilton- and shocker, it has to do with alumni holding doors open for me. A group of JMU alumni who were working at Booz Allen got together during a time when our firm didn’t actively recruit from JMU, and led the initiative to come back to campus to recruit through a case study competition they named the Incubator Challenge. These alumni- Osama Malik, Josh Elliot, Erica McDowell, and Dan Tucker- have come down to Harrisonburg each year to hire JMU students, and thanks to Erica, I was one of those hired students in 2017.
One of the many things I like about Booz Allen, is that our size is very similar to that of JMU, and getting involved in “work extracurriculars” is extremely common. Since starting at the firm, I’ve become involved as a Madison Champion, where I plan events and facilitate ways for alumni at the firm to stay engaged with JMU, including recruiting, fundraising, and networking events. This role allows me to hold the door open for my fellow Dukes in the workplace, by finding ways for them to continue enhancing their Madison Experience for years to come.
As you’ve read, I’ve had many doors held open for me as a JMU student, and even now as an alum. I’m also a big believer in paying it forward, so my role as a Madison Champion at Booz Allen has enabled me to begin that process for my fellow alumni and current JMU students. If you’ve had doors held open for you because of JMU, I encourage you to look at ways to continue the tradition by holding them open for others.*
My name is Tory Atkins and I am Massachusetts native and a 2017 graduate of JMU’s College of Political Science– International Affairs with a concentration in Comparative Politics in the Middle East, specifically. Since graduation, I have been working in the DC metro area at Booz Allen Hamilton, where I am lucky to work and interact with around 500 other Dukes, as the firm’s Madison Champion.
*If you’re interested in learning more about how Madison Champions contribute to paying it forward and holding doors open, contact the Office of Alumni Association’s Madison Champion program lead, Emma Maynard at firstname.lastname@example.org