Student Resources

Capital Conversations: Winter Session 2020-2021 Virtual Speaker Series

Notre Dame’s Office of Federal & Washington Relations, in partnership with the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy and the Washington Program, is sponsoring a virtual speakers series during the upcoming winter period to help connect current students with policy makers and government officials in the Washington, DC area and learn more about Notre Dame’s efforts in our Nation’s Capital. The six- week series consists of two, one-hour virtual sessions via Zoom each week on the topics and dates below, with students having the opportunity to directly engage with respective speakers. The series is designed as an experiential learning opportunity, with no academic credit provided. Student participation in all sessions is strongly encouraged but not required.

Registration information for each week can be found below and will be updated throughout the Winter Session.

Week 1: Notre Dame’s Work in DC (Week of December 7th)

Students will be introduced to Notre Dame’s DC team and learn about the university’s strategic priorities in Washington. Speakers will share insights into DC’s current policy and political landscape, as well as the anticipated impact of upcoming White House, agency & Hill transitions.

  • Session 1A, Tuesday, December 8, 4-5 PM EST
    • Hear from Notre Dame’s Federal Relations team, the Keough School Washington Office, and the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development’s DC Regional Engagement Manager and learn more about the university’s strategic priorities in our Nation’s Capital. Speakers will introduce students to ND’s work in Washington and provide an overview of the Capital Conversations series.
  • Session 1B, Wednesday, December 9, 2-3 PM EST
    • Representatives from Notre Dame’s government affairs firm will share insights into DC’s current policy and political landscape, as well as the anticipated impact of upcoming White House, agency & Hill transitions.

Week 2: Intro to Capitol Hill, Part 1 (Week of December 14th)

Speakers will provide students with an introductory look at working on the Hill, to include differences between House and Senate offices, and committee versus personal office staff. Students will also have opportunities to engage directly with a currently serving member of the House of Representatives as well as senior Hill aides. Speakers will provide insight into the ongoing preparations for the new Presidential Administration and session of Congress.

  • Session 2A, Thursday, December 17, 2-3 PM EST
    • A conversation with Lauren O'Brien (SMC 2005), Legislative Director to Senator Todd Young (R-IN).
  • Session 2B, Thursday, December 17, 3-4 PM EST
    • A conversation with Jed D'Ercole (ND 1999), National Security Advisor to Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
  • Session 2C, Tuesday, December 15, 4-5 PM EST
  • Session 2D, Tuesday, December 15, 7:15-8 PM EST

Week 3: Federal Budget Insights (Week of January 4th)

A senior official who supports various aspects of the Federal budget and appropriations process will provide insights into the government’s annual budget and spending plan build.

Week 4: Intro to Federal Agencies (Week of January 11th)

ND alumni serving in senior executive branch positions will provide an introduction to the roles of Federal agencies in the policy-making process as well as representative career paths.

  • Session 4A, Monday, January 11, 2-2:45 PM EST
    • A conversation with John Schoaff '91, Director, Office of Air Policy and Program Support (OAPPS), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Session 4B, Tuesday, January 12, 2-3 PM EST

Week 5: Department of Defense & Department of State (Week of January 18th)

Students will be connected with senior decision-makers and policy officials in both the Department of Defense and Department of State, providing students with exposure to policy-making efforts within the executive branch.

Week 6: Intro to Capitol Hill, Part 2 (Week of January 25th)

Students will continue to explore the ins and outs of life on Capitol Hill, connecting with key ND alumni working in the Halls of Congress and beyond. Students will also hear first-hand about the transition to a new Congress and new Presidential Administration.

  • Session 6A, Thursday, January 28, 4-4:45 PM EST
    • A conversation with Danny Smith '08, Counsel to Senator Cory A. Booker, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Interested students should contact Dr. Jill Pentimonti ( to obtain additional information.