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Reflections from Villanova on the Hill

Group outside FBI Headquarters
Senior nursing student Tony Garcia (3rd from right) outside FBI Headquarters with his Villanova on the Hill cohort in October 2018.

Senior Antonio "Tony" Garcia shares his experience with Villanova on the Hill, a six-day immersion program in Washington, D.C. The program, which was open to undergraduates from across campus, is an initiative from Villanova’s Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) Institute.

Tony Garcia with Dean Donna S. Havens
Tony Garcia with Donna S. Havens, PhD, RN, FAAN, Connelly Endowed Dean, M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, during a reception in Washington, D.C. for the Villanova on the Hill cohort.

What drew me to the Villanova on the Hill program was my interest in health disparities work with Dr. Linda Maldonado and her Team Latina research project serving the Puerto Rican community of Philadelphia. As a nursing major with an interest in health policy work but unsure of how I would fit into D.C.’s political ecosystem, I approached the program with an open mind and eager to learn.

Throughout the program we visited 18 iconic sites throughout the District and listened to politicians, thought leaders and policymakers speak about finding common ground during a time where hyperpolarization impedes constructive dialogue. Some of the sites included Congress, the White House, USDA, Progressive Policy Institute, Bipartisan Policy Center, FBI Headquarters, Facebook, Thorn Run Partners, Democracy Fund, Politico, Third Way, Senate Office Building, Department of Commerce, Chamber of Commerce, Leidos, and Library of Congress.

With almost every person we met, I found several common characteristics that helped them get their start in D.C. First and most importantly, it was feeling called to act in good will to solve issues affecting the American people. Secondly,  it was the desire to take initiative and go the extra mile in whatever position they started out in, no matter how difficult the job. This meant becoming an expert in the role they were assigned and sharing their knowledge to make them a valuable asset. Third, it was the ability to network and form meaningful bonds with colleagues. Many professionals in the town were able to get their jobs because someone remembered their strong work ethic in a previous role and thought that they would be well suited for a new opportunity.

When asked about finding common ground during the current political divide, a lot of our hosts believed that it was important to see the humanity in others first and foremost, regardless of beliefs or ideologies. They noticed that people unite when they must work towards solutions.

Their statements on service, initiative, competence, and collaboration parallel our preparation as Villanova nurses. We are called to become the best nurses we can possibly be and assemble for the betterment of our patients and greater populations.

D.C. is a place where I could see myself serving communities and I hope to work there when I graduate this fall. I came into this trip wanting to extend my services beyond the bedside. After attending this trip, I’ve been inspired with new ideas to ignite change in the communities I serve with my research and in the communities I will serve in the future. I also gained a multitude of connections and a clearer picture of what I see myself doing in D.C. upon graduation.

While I plan to practice at a hospital, I would enjoying volunteering in the public policy realm during my time off from work. Overall, I was amazed by the number of intelligent and kind-hearted people I encountered from participating in this experience, including my fellow peers in the cohort. I give all thanks to the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing and Villanova’s Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship Institute for making it possible for me to attend this trip.