Army Reservist and Humanities major Noel Salvador Dominguez interned at the Smithsonian Institution through TWC's VET Initiative. The experience put his potential career opportunities into a much clearer focus.
In observation of Veterans Day 2019, The Washington Center will honor our interns who have served in the military in addition to their academic pursuits, and celebrate our internship partners who host them. The Veterans Employment Trajectory (VET) Initiative helps student veterans — like Noel Salvador Dominguez — translate their unique blend of military and college skills into successful careers.
Being a Humanities major and a nontraditional student, Noel Salvador Dominguez didn’t think the VET Initiative program in D.C. was the right fit. Looking back as a VET alumnus with skills and experience in advancement and development, and a well-connected network, Noel believes potential professional opportunities are clearer.
What is your name, military branch and years served, school, and major?
I am Noel Salvador, currently finishing up my initial eight year contract with the U.S. Army Reserve while attending Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. My majors are in Studio Art and Italian Studies.
What challenges did you face as a veteran transitioning to civilian student life?
As a Reservist, it has been challenging to balance my monthly training obligations with juggling assignments, papers, projects, and all the responsibilities of a demanding curriculum at Wesleyan. Adapting to college as an older, non-traditional student has also been demanding on its own. However, having the life experience to put things into perspective, particularly when it’s finals week and everyone else is losing their minds, have proven helpful.
What most attracted you to the VET Initiative program?
When I first heard about the VET program, I didn’t think it would be the right fit for me because I thought all of the internship opportunities in the D.C. area would involve politics. As a humanities major, and as someone interested in the arts and museum field, I did not think they would have anything that would work for me. But, when I heard they could offer me an internship that would fit my particular interests and a potential opportunity at the Smithsonian, I decided to submit an application right away. I didn’t think I would be selected because I know these kinds of programs are rare and they probably receive a ton of applicants.
The skills and professional experience in advancement and development gained during my time at the Smithsonian have been tremendous.Noel Salvador Dominguez
Where did you intern and what did you enjoy most about your internship?
The application process was very accommodating because I was studying abroad in Italy while I submitted all the necessary forms and documents. I even had my interviews via Skype. I was placed with the Smithsonian Institution, Friends of the Smithsonian and was thrilled to have the offer before I had even returned to the U.S. from Italy. The thing I enjoyed the most about my time at the Smithsonian was that I wholeheartedly support their mission and values. I knew that everyone around me was working to support the same mission and it created such a great work environment.
In what ways did your internship contribute to your professional development?
The skills and professional experience in advancement and development gained during my time at the Smithsonian have been tremendous. I was able to get a firsthand view into the fundraising operations of a large cultural institution that operates nineteen museums and galleries, eleven of which are on the National Mall! Also, the networking opportunities were fantastic. I was able to meet and talk to directors, curators, gallerists and a variety of other museum professionals who helped put my potential professional opportunities into a much clearer focus.
What was the most impactful outcome from participating in the VET Initiative?
The most impactful outcome for me was the internship experience itself. As a humanities major, the internship enabled me to realize the value of the particular skill sets that I have acquired through both my academic and military careers, and that they are a great fit for a large cultural institution, like the Smithsonian.
Which skills were you able to translate from the military to your internship? How did this experience help you develop or discover new skills or competencies?
My organizational skills and initiative were just a couple of the things my coworkers regularly commented on. They were glad to see how quickly I learned the daily operations, as well as the advancement database program for tracking and updating all the donor files. I was also able to build a great opportunity for future collaboration with the Smithsonian Latino Center. On the flip side, I learned and discovered how the advancement teams work to build relationships with donors. It’s not about making deals and closing sales. The team genuinely wants to advance the mission of the organization and it shows in the quality of relationships they build with donors.
Were you able to build or expand your professional network? If so, how?
Definitely. I met so many museum professionals that were very eager to talk and share their experiences with me. Additional connections were made possible from simply talking to someone over coffee and sharing my story or talking about my interests in the field. The Smithsonian Latino Center staff were very receptive and welcoming. They gave me several suggestions on how to pursue future opportunities at the Smithsonian.
How has the VET Initiative helped shape or impact your career goals?
My experience with the VET Initiative has reinforced my decision to pursue a career in the arts. I am still very interested in arts education and after my internship experience I have learned there are many different paths to pursue that goal, including as a museum professional.
What advice would you give other student veterans who are considering applying to the VET Initiative?
Apply. The VET Initiative and The Washington Center have a lot to offer, whether you are interested in a career in politics, healthcare, law, or the arts. They will do their best to find something that will work for you.
The Washington Center's Veterans Employment Trajectory (VET) Initiative offers student veterans a path to demonstrate the skills and experience acquired from their service and make significant contributions in the civilian world. If you’re a student veteran looking to apply your skills in the civilian professional world, learn more about the VET Initiative here.