Alum Mentors Students Who Dream of Working in Washington, D.C.

by | Feb 12, 2019 | Alumni, Dean's Corner, Faces of Fulbright, Q & A

After years of fervently pursuing his dream of working in the capital of the United States, Thomas Pevehouse established D.C. Hopefuls to mentor young adults who share this arduous aspiration. As a Fulbright College alumnus, Pevehouse boasts having helped 21 of the college’s students or graduates so far through his organization.

“D.C. Hopefuls is my attempt to help young people across the country launch the career of their dreams without making the hundreds of mistakes I made along the way,” Pevehouse said. “Life doesn’t come with a syllabus, and launching a career – especially in Washington, D.C. – is incredibly difficult without a lot of guidance.

Pevehouse relishes seeing the success of other Fulbright College alumni who have become members of D.C. Hopefuls and then secured jobs with prestigious employers such as the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency and even the White House.

There are an abundance of Fulbright College success stories, including alumna Brianna Suggs, a 2017 graduate who majored in political science, who dreamed of working in national security. By implementing the principles she learned in D.C. Hopefuls, she was able to secure a job at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Once in Washington, D.C. Suggs grew her network and last year was able to secure a job at the Department of Defense.

Likewise, Fulbright College alumnus Elliott Cole, a 2017 graduate who majored in political science, is now a communications associate at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. He credits Pevehouse for preparing him for this opportunity.

“I met Tommy during the fall 2015 semester while I was a student at the University of Arkansas. I knew that I wanted to work in Washington, D.C., but had no idea where to start,” Cole said. “Fast-forward to today and I can’t begin to explain the many ways in which Tommy and D.C. Hopefuls has had a positive influence on my life and career. Tommy has been a consistent coach advocating for me, and has connected me with so many great individuals.”

Hannah Kunasek, a 2017 graduate who majored in international studies, credits D.C. Hopefuls with teaching her to succeed in the professional world, by learning “essential skills that you don’t learn in the classroom but need to succeed.”

Kaitlyn Smithwick, a 2015 graduate who majored in international relations and political science, another Fulbright College alumna who is now an intelligence officer, agreed.

“During my time in D.C. Hopefuls, Tommy’s guidance has led me to set meaningful career goals,” she said. “The courses and workshops available through D.C. Hopefuls helped me build necessary skills, such as proper networking etiquette and how to craft a great resume. Skills such as these are critical in order to succeed in Washington, D.C.”

Current students interested in learning more or getting involved can visit the D.C. Hopefuls website for more information and resources. All of the students featured in this story also participated in the free Arkansas Launch webinar that Pevehouse offers. 

In this conversation, we get a look at the man behind the scenes of D.C. Hopefuls. Pevehouse talks about how Fulbright College prepared him for his career, his experiences on the road to success in Washington D.C. and how his memories of Sigma Nu will always be very special to him.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your career, what you studied in college, and how the two relate to one another?

I studied international relations at the University of Arkansas from 2005-2009. Following graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C. in pursuit of a master’s degree in international peace and conflict resolution from American University while working for the Air Force General Counsel’s office.

For the last three years, I have worked as the senior intelligence analyst on the lead 9/11 case at the Military Commissions Defense Organization. In my role, I work with defense attorneys representing the men accused of the 9/11 attacks at Guantanamo Bay.

While nothing could completely prepare you for this career, my degree from Fulbright College taught me how to mentally approach complex and large global issues.

Q: What has been one of the most interesting or exciting accomplishments for you in your career or life post-college?

I am most proud that I never gave up. My journey to the career I have today was anything but easy, but despite hundreds of setbacks and failures, I persevered.

I struggled in ways I never imagined in my first four to six years in Washington, D.C., but I stuck with it until I began to understand how to maneuver myself professionally.

Q: What was one of your favorite memories of your time at the college and why?

My favorite memories from college are centered around my time in Sigma Nu.

Joining a small fraternity with no house and starting from scratch as a freshman, but then graduating with a beautiful house, amazing charity-based traditions and five times as many members as we started with is something that will always be very special to me.

Q: Now that you have achieved so much in your career, what advice would you give to students?

Whatever you do, always remember that you don’t have all of life’s answers. Seek help. The ultimate sign of strength is to admit your own weakness.

Find people who have done what it is that you want to do and engage with them – not on social media but strive for real human interaction.

Your success will come down to this question – how do other people feel about themselves when they interact with you?

If the answer is good, you will accomplish anything you want. If the answer is bad or unappreciated, you will find yourself stuck.

Q: What do you like to do during your time outside of work?

I enjoy spending time with my wife and six-month old son, Eli.

If the weather is nice, I will occasionally sneak out early for nine holes of golf on a course that overlooks the Washington monument and Lincoln memorial.

Q: What’s up next on the horizon for you?

As always, the future is unclear! If the 9/11 case ever does go to trial, my world will be flipped upside down.

As for D.C. Hopefuls, I hope to continue to grow the organization through big webinar trainings this spring and summer.

My hope is to max out the D.C. Hopefuls Fellowship spring class of 2019 at 20 new members!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add or let readers know?

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Olivia Chivers

Communications Project Manager
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

479-575-2130 // ochivers@uark.edu