Like so many Washington Program participants from CMC, Brooke Millis ’04 had her eye on the program from the time she did her initial search about which colleges she might elect to attend.
“I loved the idea that students would be able to experience living and working in D.C. while still engaged in classes,” says Millis who majored in International Relations at CMC and participated in the Program in 2002. “The program sounded both unique and challenging – and it was. Of the many Washington, DC programs I subsequently heard of, CMC’s had no match in intensity or impact.”
According to Millis, the Washington Program helps students develop a plethora of valuable skills for the workplace from workload management, concentration and timeliness to attention to deadlines. “You get a taste of all of these skills as a college student,” she says, “but once you’re faced with juggling a full-time job, classes and a thesis-length research project, well, you learn quickly that you can either succeed or fail, but it’s entirely up to you.”
Additionally, Millis adds, being able to work full time in a professional environment gives Washington Programmers a crash course in etiquette, interpersonal interactions and how to earn respect from peers and supervisors.
After graduating from CMC, Millis worked with the Center for Private Enterprise (CIPE) for five years, first as a program assistant, then as the Program Officer for South Asia. CIPE is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. that works to strengthen democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform.
“My portfolio included large programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as a number of smaller projects in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh,” she says.
While working for CIPE, Millis pursued a graduate certificate in Entrepreneurship from American University and certification in association management from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Organization Management. In 2012, Millis had a career sea-change and moved from international aid to wedding planning. Since 2012, she has worked with Each & Every Detail, a wedding planning firm in Dallas, Texas.
“I am currently an associate wedding planner in the firm, and handle about 20 clients each year,” Millis says. “I also hold the designation of Certified Wedding Planner from the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners.”
Millis believes the Washington Program gave her a much stronger understanding of how D.C. operates, how different organizations interact and where she would be the most comfortable. Prior to participating in the Washington Program, Millis’ end goal was to be a diplomat and work for the State Department. Afterwards, she says she began to see how many other options were available to those interested in international affairs, and was able to target organizations that fit into her worldview and goals more specifically.
Additionally, participation in the Program prepared Millis for how to interview effectively in D.C., how to “sell” her own particular skill set and how to be an effective employee from her first day on the job.
“CIPE leadership noticed me immediately,” she says, “and in less than a year after being hired, they created a new program portfolio so that they could promote me to a position with more responsibility and opportunity for expanding the organization’s reach in developing countries.”
Millis’ internship with the Atlantic Council of the United States (ACUS) occurred during the organization’s annual fundraising gala gave her a crash course in party planning and fundraising (both of which have come into play via her career track).
“I also fell in love with the city of Washington, D.C. during my time there, especially the Smithsonian,” she says. During my time in the Program, the Sackler Gallery (Asian art) was hosting a group of monks from Tibet to build a peace mandala out of sand. My roommate and I got tickets to see the destruction ceremony, which was hosted by the Dalai Lama, and we participated in the march to the Tidal Basin to release the sand back into the world. It was a pretty powerful and unique moment, one I will never forget.”
Millis feels that the Washington Program was one of her key experiences while at CMC, teaching her that sometimes, you have no choice other than to take what you’ve got in front of you and somehow make it work. “Too late for the train and no money for a cab? You still can’t be late – make it work,” she says. “Just got home from class and it’s 10:00 p.m. and your paper is due in two weeks? Stay up late or get up early, you have to finish that chapter – make it work. Conference rooms are all booked and your boss just walked in with an important member of the Japanese trade delegation? Dust off your Japanese, find some tea, and prep a small corner of the biggest office – make it work! Taking responsibility and making things happen are not optional skills in life. The Program taught me how to stay calm under pressure and deal with whatever life throws at you.”
According to Millis, the Program’s true value is in how it allows students to get a glimpse of life after college. “While I loved every minute of my time at CMC, it was the Program that gave me the life lessons I needed to start strong after college,” she says. “Renting an apartment, budgeting for everyday life, facing challenges without a safety net – these are invaluable skills, no matter what your major or career path. Additionally, the Program gives students an overview of life in the Capitol – political and private sector – which makes job hunting after college a little simpler. Networking and connections made during the Program helped me find my job after school.”