Sophie Gelling ’21 arrived at Gettysburg College eager to double major in political science and German studies, as well as compete for playing time on the Bullets volleyball team. What she didn’t expect was to be entrusted with leading her peers on a two-day career immersion trip to Washington, D.C., as a first-year student.
Why did you choose to attend Gettysburg College?
When I visited, I really loved Gettysburg’s small campus environment. I immediately felt like this was going to be the place where I could connect with professors and get the attention a lot of students don’t get at bigger schools. The liberal arts experience was really important to me—the ability to be a Division III athlete, to study abroad, to tap into a strong alumni network—all of it just made Gettysburg feel really comfortable to me.
How did you get involved with leadership development as a first-year student?
I have always considered myself a leader. I held positions of responsibility in high school, but when I arrived at Gettysburg, I decided I wanted to further my leadership skills and get more involved on campus. That’s why I chose to join the Gettysburg College Leadership Certificate, offered through the Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC).
The Leadership Certificate is a customizable yearlong program designed for any student to grow as a leader through the guidance of a personal leadership coach. Pictured: Guilford (l), Gelling (r).
Who was your personal leadership coach for the Leadership Certificate program?
I was lucky enough to be paired with Jamie Guilford in the Center for Career Development. I was looking for someone who could be a mentor to me and help me explore my career interests, and she was the perfect fit. We’d get together for coffee and brainstorm ways for me to grow in my leadership development—and through these conversations Jamie proposed that I lead an immersion trip for students like myself who are interested in government-related careers.
What was it like leading a career immersion trip as a first-year student?
While Jamie was our chaperone on the trip, she left a lot of the planning and decision-making up to me in terms of setting the vision, creating the itinerary, and tapping into our connections in the D.C. Metro area—alumni who are all so willing to help Gettysburg students in any way they can. So, it was an amazing and empowering experience for me.
Our immersion trip to Washington, D.C. was comprised of two site visits—one to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and the other to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), since we have very influential alumni working at both agencies. We also had a networking dinner sandwiched in-between. There were 10 students participating, and although we were all pursuing different majors, it was productive in that we had common goals and interests in ultimately working in public service.
Our first-years were asking questions about internships, whereas the seniors were asking questions about employment. No matter the grade-level, it was rewarding for me to not only organize this trip, but to also help my classmates gain a better understanding of their career options and actually go inside those agencies and see their inner workings firsthand.
How did this experience change you as a leader?
Through the Leadership Certificate program, I made a commitment to myself to develop my leadership abilities. By leading this immersion trip, I gained more self-awareness and I strengthened my collaboration skills.
Now I can really see myself working in D.C. after graduation, which is a big goal of mine. To have this incredible experience, this network at my fingertips, and these leadership skills heightened by the GLC, I think this all is clearly preparing me for my future career.
Learn more about registering for the Leadership Certificate program.