Boston College students met with BC alumnus Marty Walsh, U.S. secretary of labor. Photo by Department of Labor/Alyson Fligg.

Four Boston College students with a passion for public service traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with the University’s extensive political alumni network and discuss issues facing the BC community.

The trip marked the 10th annual visit to Capitol Hill for the Atlantic Coast Conference Advocacy Days Program, through which student representatives from ACC institutions meet with legislators, governmental officials, and professional staff to discuss student financial aid, undergraduate research funding, and other issues affecting higher education.

Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences seniors Julia Spagnola and Devianna Smith and sophomore Onur Toper, and Woods College of Advancing Studies senior Ishaan Kaushal sat down with United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh—who recently announced he will leave the Biden administration to become head of the National Hockey League Players Association—and U.S. Representatives Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), all of whom are BC graduates. Additionally, the students met with senior legislative and operations staff—also BC graduates—in Lynch and Scott’s offices, as well as Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass), an alumnus of BC and BC Law School.

Students with Stephen Lynch

The BC student cohort met with U.S. Representative Stephen Lynch, who graduated from Boston College Law School in 1991. (Photo by Jeanne Levesque)

What struck Toper about the individuals was how they have continued to uphold Jesuit principles from their BC years. “It was evident that BC alumni on the Hill integrate Jesuit values like cura personalis in policymaking, which testifies to their being ‘men and women for and with others’ in all aspects of life, and especially in public service.”

Walsh left a particular impression on the students. Speaking with him, said Toper, “gave me a new appreciation for executive leadership not only in the federal government, but also in state and local governments across the country.”

For Smith, meeting Walsh was among the high points of the trip to Washington, which she described as “one of the most formative moments” in her BC experience: “I really valued his kindness and honesty. I felt inspired by the conversations we had with him.”

Smith also was inspired by the number of BC alumni who work in the nation’s capital (“BC students have such a strong network to utilize”), and felt her time and participation in the trip would prove useful as she prepares to work for the Morgan Stanley Legal & Compliance Division.

Students with Bobby Scott

U.S. Representative Bobby Scott, a 1973 graduate of BC Law School, with the BC student cohort. (Photo by Jeanne Levesque)

“The trip not only exposed me to the opportunities available to students to participate in civic engagement, but also allowed me to better understand the people behind policy creation and implementation.”  

While networking was a main component of the trip, the BC students made it a priority to thank officials and legislators for their efforts in supporting federal research funding, financial aid, and Pell Grants. Toper said the D.C. visit “solidified my interest in public service and helped to broaden my understanding of, and engagement in, public policy matters affecting students at BC.”

The experience is not only important for those passionate about public policy or civil service, noted Director of Government Relations Jeanne Levesque, who emphasized that the student delegation represented the University and that their discussions had potential implications for their peers at the Heights. “All of these issues affect the whole student body,” she said.

Meghan Keefe '24 | University Communications | March 2023