Washington Experience Boosts Alumni Careers

Internships and firsthand encounters influence decision-making about professions
Gina Marie DeMatteo, Christina Kulich-Vamvakas  and Paul Yazbeck
Gina Marie DeMatteo, Professor Christina Kulich-Vamvakas, and Paul Yazbeck reunite at an alumni reception in Washington, D.C.

Networking is second nature to Washington insiders, and Suffolk students had the chance to mingle with government and political professionals during an alumni reception held during the January seminar at The Washington Center.

Students were delighted to talk in a casual setting with Government Department alumnus Roger Fisk, who had shared insights from his work with President Obama and former Sen. John Kerry in a private session earlier in the week.

They also met two alumni veterans of Washington Center programs who now are working in Washington.

Paul Yazbeck attended the 2017 Inside Washington Inauguration Seminar as a graduate student in Suffolk’s Government Department. He earned a master of science in ethics and public policy that same year and is now an analyst at the U.S. Department of State.

He and Gina Marie DeMatteo, Class of 2018, had been recruited to Washington Center programs by Suffolk Government Professor Christina Kulich-Vamvakas.

DeMatteo’s fall 2017 Washington Center internship with Grant Thornton, a tax, audit, and advisory firm, led to a full-time position as a legislative communications associate there. Her unit is focused on public policy lobbying.

Balancing work and studies

Yazbeck, who oversees seven passport agencies with a focus on compliance, fraud, and misfeasance, began his government career in the State Department’s Boston office while studying at Suffolk.

“I was working full-time and taking classes full-time, so I would work until four-fifteen, and then I would run up the hill to get to class,” he says. “That semester was really tough, but now that I look back, it was very fulfilling, and I got a lot out of it. Working and going to school at the same time is a normal Suffolk thing.”

Seminar sees start of Trump era

Yazbeck was one of the few graduate students in the Suffolk contingent during the 2017 Washington Center seminar, held as the Trump administration began, but he made some enduring friendships.

“I was part of the inauguration seminar, which was a very interesting time to be in D.C.,” he says
. “I think it subconsciously shaped my interest in being in Washington, but not necessarily my interest in being in politics. Ever since I started with the State Department and I got very much involved in my graduate program, I've been interested in local public policy and foreign policy.”

Serendipity

DeMatteo, a senior when she took part in the semester-long Washington Center internship program, had been angling to work in a senatorial office, but there was a delayed response. “It was a happy accident that I took the Grant Thornton internship.”

“I was interested in government, and I really wanted to become a state representative, but I also was interested on the federal level. So I decided I might as well take a spin and look at D.C., and it ended up being a fantastic program. I really wanted to learn more about networking. As much as you can network with people in Boston, if you’re in the government and public policy area, you meet a lot more people with a lot of different perspectives down in Washington.

Lasting impression

Her supervisor at Grant Thornton stayed in touch after DeMatteo returned to Suffolk. “He kept trying to get me to come back down to DC and sent me different job applications.” At one point he emailed her about a management position with his firm, and DeMatteo sent the information along to friends because she didn’t think she was qualified.

“Then he called and asked why I hadn’t applied yet. So we talked back and forth a little while and I ended up applying,” says DeMatteo. “I had one other offer back in Boston, but I decided this I should be the obvious path for me.”

Mentoring relationships

DeMatteo already is serving as a mentor to colleagues still in studying in Suffolk’s Politics, Philosophy & Economics program.

“I’ve been constantly talking to them, asking them if there are any job leads I can send their way. A couple of professors also have connected me with students,” she says.

She’s always open to giving advice about issues ranging from salary negotiation to what it’s like to live in Washington.

“Moving and picking up your whole life to move here is definitely worth it,” says DeMatteo. “Maybe not forever, but definitely for a few years.”

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Greg Gatlin
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