Fly in to D.C. this semester to network with top government, industry experts

This article was initially published in FIU News by Cristina Jaramillo. 

In November, 15 students from more than 10 disciplines participated in the Future of Waters and Coastal Economies DC Fly-In, a three-day experiential seminar focused on exploring how policies related to water quality are made and what career opportunities exist in the capital for students passionate about the environment.

The DC Fly-In series is hosted by FIU in DC and Campus Life each fall and spring with the support of the Student Government Association, and focuses on one of FIU’s preeminent research areas through engaging conversations and experiences with experts across government, academia and industry.

“The students who participated in the water fly-in are quite possibly the most impressive, ambitious, well-researched groups of students I have done a program with in over a decade at FIU,” said Eric Feldman, associate director at FIU in DC, who developed the itinerary for the experience. “To have students from both earth and social science backgrounds leading challenging conversations with government industry officials is not only a learning experience for them, it establishes FIU within the Washington community as a school where employers can find graduates who are truly prepared to make a positive impact.”

Alumnus Gabriel Curbelo ’19 shares his personal experience participating in the fly-in last year. Curbelo earned a bachelor’s in anthropology last spring and a second bachelor’s in environmental studies this past December.

Nervous. Timid. Anxious. These three words perfectly describe how I felt as I pulled up to Miami International Airport at 5 a.m. to get on the early flight to Washington, D.C. I could not begin to imagine how I was going to make it through three days of meetings and events in a city I had visited once as a child.

With little to no Miami cafecito in our veins, our unstoppable guide Michelle Castro, assistant director for Campus Life, took us through the city’s streets until we reached the FIU in DC office. We were immediately greeted by the friendly staff, interns and professors who were preparing for FIU’s event the next day.

We then headed to Silver Spring, Maryland, where we visited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At their office, the Science on a Sphere exhibit projected real time Earth data projected onto a globe. We were all amazed by the history of NOAA and saw real time Earth data projected onto a globe. Some environmental studies and biology majors, including myself, couldn’t help but dream about a job there during our visit.

We then jetted back to the DC office to attend a panel discussion from female leaders in science communications. My favorite had to be Mireya Mayor, FIU’s new director of the Exploration and Science Communications Initiative, who had talked about her journey from being a Dolphin’s cheerleader to becoming a national geographic explorer and primatologist. It was interesting to learn the importance of science communications and how I, as a future scientist, must learn to better communicate my own research to make it more accessible to diverse audiences.

The next day we attended FIU’s event, “The Role of Water.” We were greeted by President Mark B. Rosenberg who not only thanked us for attending, but also took time to speak to us about our experience at FIU and our future careers. During the event, we networked with government officials, scientists and peers that were interning in D.C.

Knowing that I was an intern park ranger at Everglades National Park, Carlos Becerra, FIU’s assistant vice president of Federal Relations, pulled me aside to meet my boss’s boss’s boss: Assistant Secretary of Interior, Water and Science Tim Petty. It was the meeting of a lifetime! After talks and discussions at the event, we attended meetings with the Florida Sugar Cane League and the EPA.

Our final day involved solving real policy issues in a hackathon, where in groups we came up with not only policy solutions but a full presentation under one hour. It was amazing to speak about our policy ideas and learn different approaches and solutions to the same type of problems.

It was an incredible three days in D.C. that I would never take back. I made new friends and met with people that could one day have a major impact on my career. The DC Fly-In program left me with another three words: hopeful, enthusiastic and grateful!

Also on the agenda

In addition to Curbelo’s highlights, students visited Congressional offices to discuss how to stay engaged in creating environmental solutions. They met with Congressman Brian Mast, the subcommittee on environment, and a water economist from the World Bank as well as attended a documentary on micro-plastics at the French embassy.

How to participate in future fly-ins:

More Panthers will make their way to D.C. this month as at least 10 students and recent graduates begin internships in the capital. Additionally, a special edition fly-in, combining the Black Student Union and Women in Politics and Policy, for which students have already been selected, will take place Jan. 29-31.

Students who are interested in careers in Washington, D.C., are encouraged to sign up for FIU in DC’s Talent Lab Prep Network, through which internship and fly-in opportunities are announced. The next research advocacy fly-in will take place in March. Applications will open in January, and will be distributed through the Prep Network newsletter as well as through Campus Life.


FIU in Washington, D.C., is an integrated advocacy approach aimed at increasing FIU’s national reputation and federal support for FIU’s preeminent and emerging preeminent programs, faculty and students. The FIU in DC team  collaborates with academic units to provide learning experiences and support the placement of students and alumni in internships and permanent employment. 

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