A group of communication majors from the College of Charleston spending spring break in New York City and Washington D.C. probably won’t return to campus with suntans.

But for the 18 students making the trip, the opportunity to interact with leaders from some of the world’s top marketing, public relations and media companies is better than any beach.

Now in its sixth year, the Department of Communication’s Washington-New York Student Experience provides a unique opportunity for upper classmen to network with highly accomplished professionals from a variety of communication fields.

This year’s itinerary from March 3 -7, 2014, includes stops at FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, CNN, Time Inc., Reuters, IBM, Edelman, Landor, and others. The visits are arranged through the Department of Communication Advisory Council, a who’s who of successful and well-connected communication veterans who share their expertise with the department and mentor its students. Most of the council’s members are senior executives at the companies that host the students.

College of Charleston Department of Communication Chair Beth Goodier.

College of Charleston Department of Communication Chair Beth Goodier.

“Thanks to our Advisory Council and especially our Executive in Residence Tom Martin, we are pleased to offer our students this incredible professional opportunity to network with industry leaders and learn about opportunities in the field of communication,” said Department of Communication Chair Beth Goodier.

[Related: Watch a video about the Department of Communication Advisory Council.]

For some past student participants, the trips have led to internships and, in some cases, jobs.

One stop on the New York leg of this year’s trip is Landor Associates, a global brand consulting and design firm whose clients have included Microsoft, FedEx, and Proctor & Gamble.

At Landor, students will meet communication alumna Julia Race ’13, a CofC and Communication alumna who landed her job at Landor partly as a result of her spring break visit to the firm in 2013. Even before the trip, Race had established a connection to the firm through Hayes Roth, Landor’s chief marketing officer and a member of the advisory council.

After graduating and spending the summer of 2013 backpacking around Europe, Race was offered a job at Landor. As a client associate, she is responsible for building and managing client relationships on several accounts.

Julia Race is an alumna of the College of Charleston Department of Communication.

Julia Race is an alumna of the College of Charleston Department of Communication.

“I’m excited that our office is back on the roster for the trip this year,” Race said. “It’s a bit of a full circle moment for me.”

The annual trips also expose students to careers in political and government communications. This week students will visit the offices of U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They’ll also chat with Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary to President Bill Clinton.

Chris Piedmont, a senior communication major and student body vice president, made the trip in 2012 and 2013. The experiences sparked his interest in political communications.

Piedmont has already completed an internship with the strategic communications and marketing firm Peppercomm – one of the spring break hosts – and hopes to secure a job with the company after graduation. Like most of the companies that participate in the program, Peppercomm has strong ties to the Department of Communication. The firm’s managing partner and co-founder, Steve Cody, is past chair of the department’s advisory council.

Chris Piedmont is vice president of the student body and a communication major.

Chris Piedmont is vice president of the student body and a communication major.

[Related: Learn why humor is essential to Peppercomm’s business.]

The trips helped Piedmont recognize the utility of a communication degree. “It was eye-opening to see all of the different ways you could go,” he said. “It really shows you the diversity of the degree and all of the different places you could work.”

That’s been a common reaction for many of the 150 students who have participated in the program thus far, said Goodier. “For many, it is this trip that solidifies their interest in a particular career and helps them to create a map for achieving their personal and professional goals.”

While every student on the trip won’t come home with a job or internship, the opportunity for high-level, up-close access to top talent in the industry is worth forgoing a traditional spring break experience, Race said.

“So much of finding a job after graduation is about networking,” she said. “I knew I’d rather have a post grad job than memories of a beach vacation.”

For more information, contact Department of Communication Chair Beth Goodier at goodierb@cofc.edu or 843.953.7420.