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Connecting the Dots: The Archer Fellowship

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“So…how does this relate to your major and career development?”

Comets are encouraged to be bright, inquisitive and open to new ideas. However, I have found that when I engage my creative brain and act on new ideas, practical questions quickly bring me back to reality. Because it is easy to disregard thoughts that do not fit neatly into our current trajectory, I used to routinely dismiss ideas and programs that did not “match” my plan. After all, exploration can be distracting.

During the summer I enjoy participating in music institutes as a violinist. My first two years at UT Dallas presented a contrasting picture, where I was an accounting student during fall and spring semesters and a musician during the summer. While performing in D.C. at the Kennedy Center last summer, I began to wonder if there was a way to combine business and music. I shared my thoughts with one of my faculty mentors who told me about the Bill Archer Fellowship Program.

'Selfie' with 41 other Archers from all different UT system campuses

The Archer Program brings UT System students to D.C. for a semester of study to intern with an organization of their choice while engaging in coursework that focuses on policy, history and advocacy. My first reaction was to dismiss the idea of being an Archer Fellow because I was not studying political science or history. However, my mentor challenged me to consider how the music business industry faces issues and challenges that can be addressed through policy. After doing some research, I realized that while my interests in business and music might seem to present a contrast, working in music business was an opportunity to learn how these areas intersect.

This semester I am enjoying diverse exposure to new ideas through the Archer Fellowship and my development internship at the Kennedy Center. As an accounting student, I tend to value focused attention to detail. New experiences in D.C. show that learning about different areas and initiatives in greater depth reveal how varied subjects are actually interconnected. I am so thankful for this experience that is made possible by a mentor who challenged me to explore an opportunity that did not initially appear to be a match.

Interdisciplinary exploration is not only fun but also increasingly important to being competitive in the workforce today. My Archer cohort does consist largely of students with majors that directly relate to government and history. However, I observe many ways that business students can complement and contribute to the goals of the Archer Program. JSOM students should consider this program and learn how participation enables exploration and adds to career development.

Explaining how activities and interests relate to a major and career can be challenging. During my first year at UTD, I felt confused and incompetent when I was asked questions that I did not have answers for. While honestly answering open questions can be really hard, working to think through an answer is personally and professionally rewarding. JSOM provides so many strong resources to help and support us as we each “connect the dots” to our future careers. By engaging in communication and being open to adaptation we can avoid dismissing creative ideas and become empowered to make valuable connections.

Here is what a typical weekday in the life of an Archer Fellow in D.C. is like:

Playing violin in Shenandoah 

  • 6:45 a.m. – Up early to hit the gym
  • 7:15 a.m. – Shower and eat breakfast
  • 7:45 a.m. – Out the door to catch the 8 a.m. “Circulator,” a bus that runs from Union Station to the Foggy Bottom Metro station.
  • 8:45 a.m. – Catch the shuttle from the Metro station to the Kennedy Center. On the days that I miss the shuttle, I power-walk the
  • 8:55 a.m. – Put together the Daily DEVO, the internal daily news update for the development department.
  • 10:15 a.m. – Fill in details on a briefing for a foundation that I drafted yesterday.
  • 11 a.m. – Meet with my supervisor for my weekly check-in and training for new assignments.
  • 11:45 a.m. – Follow up with email.
  • 12:15 p.m. – Meet at the canteen for lunch with the other interns.
  • 1 p.m. – Seminar with the institutional affairs director.
  • 2 p.m. – Update database records.
  • 2:45 p.m. – Research several foundation prospects and draft briefings.
  • 4:30 p.m. – Meet with an accountant in the finance department to interview her and talk about her nonprofit focus. She shared about her past job at KPMG and how she enjoys dancing with a local company in her free time.
  • 5:15 p.m. – Head out and catch the Bus 80, that takes me from the Kennedy Center to the Archer Center.
  • 5:45 p.m. – Eat dinner and talk with fellow Archers to go over the reading assignments for class.
  • 6:30 p.m. – Dr. Chin’s class, “Policymaking Process,” featuring guest Judge Kavanaugh from the D.C. Circuit and a student-led debate on the functions of the judiciary. The discussion became more animated tonight because candy was offered as a prize for presenting winning arguments.
  • 9:30 p.m. – Head back to Union Station on the Metro and drop by Giant groceries to pick up almond milk.
  • 10:30 p.m. – Heat up some soup and listen to music, then take a shower and do some reading.
  • 11 p.m. – Play some violin in an attic study area and set out food to pack for tomorrow’s lunch.
  • Midnight(ish) – in a horizontal position... Zzz

Naomi D'Amato

Naomi D’Amato is a junior in the Professional Program in Accounting at The University of Texas at Dallas completing minors in political science and performing arts. She is part of DMHP, active in Collegium V and serves as an officer for the Golden Key Honor society. Last year Naomi was sponsored to study abroad at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. During the summer, Naomi enjoys performing violin and leading fundraisers for Living with Neurofibromatosis. Read more articles

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