Career Exploration Trip – Denver, CO

The Career Development Office at SPEA organizes Career Exploration Trips each academic year for current students. Career Exploration Trips afford students the opportunity to visit employers at their headquarters or through targeted career panels in order to learn about internship and job opportunities, and how to be a competitive candidate for positions. Large alumni networking events are organized for each trip.

Annually, the Career Development Office organizes its Denver trip, which takes place before the Thanksgiving break.  Denver, with its environmental and energy industries and its many federal offices & agencies, has been an increasingly popular choice for SPEA students post-graduation. (Denver has the second largest concentration of federal jobs in the US; Washington DC is the first.) This trip provides excellent educational and networking opportunities for current students to meet with, and learn from, Denver professionals.

Today’s blog post about her experiences at the Denver Career Exploration Trips comes from first year MPA/MAAA student, Ashley Dillon

I’ve had my sights set on the Mile High City for some time now, so when the Career Development Office announced the Denver Career Exploration Trip, I was extremely excited. The fact that it fell on my birthday was an added plus – I’d go on a birthday trip and advance my career all at once! I immediately penned the call-out meeting into my planner.

The information session consisted of me, a couple of friends, and a large number of MSES students.  As a dual MPA/MAAA student, I was a little worried about how many arts and nonprofit organizations would be represented at the event. I spoke to the CDO about my concerns, and they assured me that there would be several arts and nonprofit organizations were in the schedule, and even encouraged me to let the CDO know if there were any specific organizations I wanted to see represented on the trip. I bought my plane ticket that night.

The trip was incredibly beneficial. My favorite events were the “round table” sessions, where small groups of students spoke with representatives of local organizations. This set-up allowed for more one-on-one time than a traditional panel, and enabled me to learn about organizations and valuable resources in the Denver job market from many representatives. Spread out over two days, the event included representatives from 50 organizations.

The hotel was right downtown, enabling us to explore the city once we adjourned for the day. Denver is a really fun and friendly city, so there was a plethora of things to explore. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the actual city where I hoped to live and work after graduating from SPEA. We had lunch listening to street musicians, ate incredible Mexican food, and went to an arcade bar where we engaged in a competitive game of SPEA skeet ball.

At “round table” session, I spoke in depth to two development representatives from the Colorado Symphony, and I was able to exchange contact information with them. On a later site visit, we took a tour of Symphony Hall and their administrative offices. We learned about the new initiatives that the Colorado Symphony is promoting to bring in a younger audience, about the long term plans for hall renovation, and the fact that the staff all bring their dogs in to the office on Fridays!

Once we got back from the trip, I emailed the symphony representatives about possible internship opportunities. After communicating via email, they offered me a summer internship, and I could not be more excited to start. Initially, I had no idea what to expect from the Career Exploration trip, but it was an amazing opportunity to envision my future opportunities and network with SPEA alumni, knowing that I could reach out to organizations that recognized the quality of my SPEA education. Plus I ended up with an internship with my dream employer in one of my favorite cities!


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