Michael Butcher Turns Connections into Opportunities

Michael Butcher works during a service trip to Peru

As a prospective student, Michael Butcher ’18 found himself impressed with the number of opportunities available to Lebanon Valley College students; as a junior, he worked to take advantage of many of these.

The College’s size allows Butcher to play lacrosse while completing a major in global studies and two minors in Spanish and political science

“You are not sitting in a hundred-person lecture—or more—during class. This allows you to speak with your professor, either during or after class, and build academic and professional connections,” explains Butcher.

These relationships with faculty and staff facilitated Butcher’s success at the College and demonstrated the importance of making connections with others in the field. Jill Russel, director of global education, played an instrumental role in Butcher’s international experiences, for example.

“I was concerned about my acceptance into the study abroad program, so I asked Jill and my advisor, who is very supportive of his students, to put in a good word for me. It is important to not only know who to contact, but to contact the right people,” he emphasizes.

His strategy proved successful, and he received acceptance into two of the school’s international programs. Butcher first studied abroad in Maastricht, Netherlands, where he spent three weeks during the summer of 2015 studying at the Center for European Studies at Maastricht University. 

This experience helped Butcher develop the international perspective essential to a global studies major. He found himself gaining an appreciation for others’ diverse viewpoints.

“Even after I returned to the United States, I maintained my interest in understanding of cultures and individuals’ differences,” he says. 

Butcher later participated in the international service trip to Peru, where he joined 15 other students in a cultural immersion service trip. Students stayed with host families and participated in a number of community service activities, such as farming, brick-making, and tutoring elementary and secondary-level students in English and Spanish.

Many students only participate in one or two of the College’s high-impact experiences; however, Butcher also worked to secure an internship opportunity. 

“Caitlin Murphy [assistant director of global education] hosted a career seminar for global studies and international relations on what you want to do, what options are there, and what possibilities are there, which really got my mind thinking about the Peace Corps, Foreign Service Officer positions, and organizations that I never knew existed,” recalls Butcher.

This event inspired Butcher to attend an on-campus Peace Corps visit with Carrie Hessler-Radelet, director of the Peace Corps, and Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent. The connections that Butcher established at this event assisted him later that summer when applying for internships through The Washington Center, one of LVC’s partner study away programs. 

This program features a field placement, elective class, and volunteer component, which provides students the opportunity for professional exploration, intellectual development, and personal growth. Students must first be granted permission to study away by the College, and later be accepted into The Washington Center program. 

After acceptance into the program, the center pairs participants with an internship counselor to negotiate students’ field placement for the coming semester. Counselors submit students’ information to various organizations and agencies across Washington, D.C.

Butcher received a few offers during this process, but none that aligned with his professional objectives. 

“I decided to reach into my resources and contact Congressman Dent’s office and the Peace Corps. I told them that I had met them in February, was accepted into the [Washington Center] program, and was looking for an internship placement. Both offices put me through to the proper channels and I was offered an internship at both places. I later confirmed my internship with Congressman Dent,” outlines Butcher.

Butcher served on Capitol Hill in the office of Representative Dent from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. four days a week. Butcher’s responsibilities included researching legislative issues, assisting with inter-office communication, answering phone calls from constituents, and conducting tours of the Capitol for visiting constituents. 

On Tuesdays, Butcher finished his day with the class Rising China: U.S.-China Relations in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Dr. Alicia Campi, fellow at the Reischauer Center at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns-Hopkins University, taught the course.

“Dr. Campi was a Foreign Service officer for 20 years in the Asia region, graduated from Princeton and Harvard Universities, and is an expert in Mongolian studies. Having the opportunity to be taught by someone who has those credentials, and now they’re somewhat of a contact, is an invaluable experience,” he says.

Students also participated in a LEAD program designed to develop leadership, engagement, achievement, and development through professional events and volunteerism.

“As a global studies major, I fit the international affairs track of the LEAD program. On Fridays we would listen to guest speakers and lectures and attend special events, such as visiting the embassy of Saudi Arabia and the Peace Institute,” explains Butcher. 

Another component of the LEAD program required Butcher to attend public policy dialogues in legislation and policy, where he experienced the multiple sides of politics.

“We spoke with a lobbyist for Squire Patton Boggs and were able to see the work of those people who are influencing where we’re working, and how the outside world influences our offices and what we do,” elaborates Butcher. 

Civic engagement comprised the final component of the program, and required students to complete community service within the D.C. Metro area. 

“I volunteered at the D.C. Central Kitchen, which is basically a soup kitchen that prepares food for homeless individuals. The tasks we were responsible for were preparing the meals for the next evening or next day,” he recalls. 

Ultimately Butcher does not intend to pursue politics as a future career; however, he feels inspired by these experiences as he enters his senior year at Lebanon Valley College. Through the assistance of faculty and staff, he feels prepared for the year ahead. 

He reflects on their role in the process, “With all the experiences I have had, whether volunteering abroad or through the internship program, I was open and honest when reaching out to my advisor and members of the College community for help. If you really want to do it, you really have to commit to it and give it your best effort, so that you are the person that is selected.”