From One Hill to Another

By Tiyana-Marie Bassim | May 5, 2022

My semester in Washington, D.C. has been a time that I will never forget. Furthermore, I do not think I will understand the Washington Semester Program's true impact until a few years out when I begin my career and look back. This program was the reason I ultimately made my decision to come to Holy Cross.

Our nation's capital has been a place I have always wanted to visit. The monuments are a sight I will never get over, but I was also hit with the hard truth of living in the city. Before coming here, I will admit that I romanticized life in my dream city. Since I am being truthful, the metro got old after my first trip. However, every time I go by the Washington Monument, I am amazed. I do not think that will ever get old!

The most impactful portion of my semester has been my internship with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Born around the same time as us, TSA is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and does much more than what most of us see at the airport.

Beyond commercial and general aviation, the scope of TSA includes mass transit systems, freight and passenger rail, highways, pipelines, and ports. The agency's mission is to, "protect the nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce." During the course of these past few months, I have been able to work with the most hard-working, intelligent, and kind people. The most blatant observation I have had working in a bureaucratic agency is that civil servants care about the American people and want what is best for us. They are always advocating for best practices and are incredibly conscious of spending U.S. taxpayers' money. With the media at times painting a negative light on the government, it is easy to give in to certain emotions and believe that our government does not care about us to the degree it should. However, I wish everyone could witness what I saw and participated in daily. I had the pleasure of working in Security Operations with the Front Office and International Operations (specifically, with the African and Middle East region). Every individual I came across was invested in my learning and helped me to make the most of my experience, which made the dreaded metro-ride all the more worth it in the end. I was able to meet incredible individuals, including the Administrator of TSA, and tour TSA Systems Integration Facility (TCIF), where new technologies are tested before being deployed into the field to support the agency's mission. I have learned much from watching many leaders of the agency, especially Susan Hasman '95, who, without her, none of this would be possible.

My advice is for students to take advantage of the opportunities Holy Cross has to offer, especially the Washington Semester Program. When speaking to alumni, who have also participated, they described their semester in D.C. as the most memorable and impactful in their future career choices. I strongly feel that I will be one of those alumni. Although D.C. is 397 miles away from Holy Cross, it is just from one hill to another.

Edited by Rachel Kunka and Maggie Reddington