Washington College: A gateway to real-world success
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Washington College: A gateway to real-world success

Mumbai-born Shreyas Sathyanarayana Suresh had always known that he wanted to study abroad. He was keen on gaining experience and exposure to different cultures — something that could only be achieved by leaving his country.

He came across Washington College (WC), a liberal arts institution in Chestertown, Maryland, at a university fair. “My parents and I had a great conversation with [the Dean of Admissions] and left with a newfound admiration for this small, relatively unknown college,” he says. “The small class sizes, emphasis on mentorship and remote setting were all huge draws.”

Suresh chose to major in Business Management and Economics with a concentration in Finance and Accounting. This was driven by a deep interest in the two subjects from a young age which was heavily influenced by his father. “I especially remember him explaining the 2008 financial crisis to me in the best way you could to a 12-year-old boy,” he recalls. “Ever since then, I’d always been drawn to the world of business and finance.”

Of course, such subjects are inherently informed by real-world developments — and WC, with its focus on “Learning by Doing,” more than ensured he was prepared for the demands of the industry.

Visiting professors and experiential learning opportunities are readily offered regularly. Source: Washington College

“Washington College offers student-centred learning experiences to develop a strong sense of global responsibility while providing work readiness skills,” explains Associate Dean for International Education Dr. Rebeca Moreno. “For instance, a Spanish language student can further develop their language and culture skills by enrolling in one of three study abroad programmes available.”

Suresh himself managed to land two internships in the Phillippines and Ghana — a direct result of meeting with a visiting professor during his Economic Development class. “I worked on microfinance internships with local communities,” he says. “The experiences immersed me in the local culture and allowed me to see how grassroots microfinance work differed in different parts of the world.” On top of this, Suresh also completed an internship with a Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) manufacturer in Chestertown.

Such experiential learning opportunities are highly encouraged by WC faculty. “The coursework and the work experience gained through internships are valuable when looking for jobs,” says Associate Professor of Computer Science Dr Austin Lobo.

“This especially applies to foreign students, who have to work within the constraints of their visas. Many jobs on campus abide by this. For example, they can get valuable experience plus pay in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) programme with the Office of Information Technology as technicians and junior programmers, and in summer research with faculty.”

At Washington College, students learn through exposure and practice. Source: Washington College

That’s not to say that learning on campus is any less practical. “Our classes stress self-designed projects and frequent presentations in front of audiences of their peers,” explains Lobo. “Companies look for these on resumes. Plus, the ability to speak in public contributes to a successful job interview.”

Programmes within the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science are a great example of this. Computer Science majors are trained in Python, C++, Java and a number of other languages on Linux, Windows and MacOS. They learn to design and build databases as well as write apps for Android and iOS.

Such is the diversity and flexibility of coursework that a Washington College student can take. Although different from his major, the breadth of his liberal arts education even took Suresh to research labs in the river. It was part of “Ecology of the Chesapeake Bay” — a class he never envisioned taking but was ultimately glad he did. “I especially remember the lab sessions out on the river, where we measured fish and collected sediment samples,” he recalls.

Students are further supported in their academic journeys by a robust Career Centre which provides resume services, links to open jobs, mock interviews, and individualised coaching. International students in particular have access to the Global Education Office, which helps them navigate the American job culture and get the advice they need on work regulations.

Washington College’s small class sizes allow for deeper personal relationships and collaboration. Source: Washington College

“WC’s emphasis on hands-on learning ensured that when I started looking for my first job, I already had a demonstrable set of experiences and skills from my various internships during college,” says Suresh. “In interviews, I was able to talk about tangible things that I had completed that related to the kind of jobs I was applying for. A liberal arts curriculum greatly helped me become a more well-rounded professional, as well.”

There’s also the multitude of personal support students receive from their educators. Professors at WC are dedicated to fostering deeper relationships with their students — something that’s made all the more possible through their small class sizes.

“Professor Lansing Williams was the most instrumental person in my life at WC,” says Suresh. “He was there for me as I worked on being an effective President for Enactus in my junior year. He also introduced me to members of the Chestertown community, which led to my appointment as the first student member of the Kent County Economic Development Commission. I will always have fond memories from our travels together, and dinners at his house with his wife Sue and their several dogs and cats.”

After graduating, Suresh spent a year working with Morgan Stanley in Baltimore. He then moved back to Mumbai to set up a soap business, working with developmentally disabled individuals in the community. Today, he is a law school student at George Washington University and has a job lined up at a New York law firm.

It’s an impressive journey ahead — and Suresh is just starting. What’s clear, however, is how a WC education shaped his life as it is today — giving him the right tools and skills to pursue many, greater things.

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