Hilltop-on-the-Hill is an immersive introduction to Washington, D.C., that leaves SMU CCPA students understanding the value of their SMU education. Not only do they meet leading decision makers, they come back prepared to dig into their classes with an intense determination to prepare themselves for the roles they have identified.

Hilltop 2017 in a (Big) Nutshell

CCPA students at Hilltop-on-the-Hill 2017

CCPA students at Hilltop-on-the-Hill 2017

During this one-hour course, students in the 2017 Hilltop-on-the-Hill program learned from a constitutional lawyer who worked on the Texas voter registration case in federal court, an investigative journalist at the Institute for Public Integrity, and a former United States ambassador to India.

Hilltop students visited Global Strategies Group, one of the largest and most prestigious Democratic research firms what goes into the planning and execution of an influence campaign. They explored the world of communication consultants through discussions with APCO Worldwide, a global communications consultancy; talked to their SMU’s Congressional representative Pete Sessions; met with the executive team at the Twenty-First Century Group about lobbying efforts; discussed the media’s changing role with CNN’s lead reporter Tom Foreman; explored work with the State Department; and learned from political consultant (and SMU MBA Alumnus) Kenny Diggs about campaign life and opportunities.

Hilltop-on-the-Hill 2017 topped off with a celebration with SMU alumni at the famous watering hole: Old Ebbitt Grill.

Signature CCPA Program

As a signature program within the political communication track of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs (CCPA), Hilltop-on-the-Hill highlights communication’s vital role in the creation of Washington, D.C., its memorials, and its museums.

Reflecting on the words of our nation’s founders and the rhetorical analysis of the persuasive impact of the way our nation is visually framed, students begin to look at the capital in different ways. For example, snap lectures from the faculty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery explains the ceremony, how it is intended to convey gravitas, and the reasons that our nation has honored those unknown fallen. Similarly, at the Newseum (the Museum of News) students are able to see the artifacts over which First Amendment cases were fought as faculty reinforce the course lessons taught back on campus.

Making Important Contacts

Those who successfully apply to this five-day program spend the majority of their time talking with DC insiders and career specialists. And for those lucky enough to catch the program during an election cycle, the Hilltop-on-the-Hill experience incorporates internships at the Republican or Democratic party conventions or with leading news organizations, as well as volunteer work at the presidential inauguration.

Each experience is different but at the heart of the program is the professional connections students make, especially alumni. Students meet a range of people from power brokers to the first-year Capitol Hill interns. Such meetings help them define the next steps for their careers. Alumni stories of SMU connections that propelled their careers offer students comfort and confidence.

Hilltop-on-the-Hill is funded through the generous support of alumnus Douglas Bauer. The Bauer endowment makes it possible to provide resources to students who demonstrate a willingness and desire to do the work required for participation. For the past several years, Southwest Airlines has generously sponsored student flights to DC.