A Window into the Consulting World

EUPS alumni share professional advice and program reflections

M.A. in Political Science, European Union Policy Studies
2018 alumni return to Florence

This semester, the JMU European Union Policy Studies (EUPS) graduate program welcomed back two alumni, Mr. Richard Shapiro (’18) and Mrs. Alexis Shapiro (’18). Current EUPS student, Alexandra Wilson Tuman ('24), interviewed these Dukes to learn more about their advice, experience, and travels. 

In late October 2023, EUPS students met with Mr. Richard Shapiro and Mrs. Alexis Shapiro, graduates of the 2018 EUPS program. Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro are also JMU undergraduates who studied international affairs and political science, respectively. Now married and working as federal consultants, Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro shared a bit about their consulting experience, professional advice, and practical tips for employment in the consulting sector. 

Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro met EUPS students at the JMU palazzo (building) to lead a consulting workshop. They discussed the primary differences in subject matter, organization, and work-life balance when working for the government and consulting companies. After their presentation, Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro took questions from the students and discussed more nuanced topics, including how to earn security clearances and strategize career advancement. With experience in both small and large consulting firms, they shared real-world insight into the dynamics of project management and how to balance changing assignments. 

When asked about the most important advice for students’ free time in the EUPS program, they emphasized one key lesson: Make the most of it! Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro explained that students can get the most out of their time in Italy by planning travel and traveling to a mix of popular and unexpected places. During their time in the program, Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro took advantage of their weekends and traveled to new destinations, some of which would become their favorites. They visited Athens, Mykonos, Madrid, Rome, and other widely traveled cities. However, they also emphasized traveling to other, less commonly thought of areas.

During one of their breaks, Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro recalled traveling to Ljubljana, Slovenia and Gdańsk, Poland, which are not the typical tourist hot spots. They explained that they unexpectedly traveled to these areas because flights were readily accessible. As it turned out, they had a wonderful time! Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro reminisced about how they enjoyed the quaintness and beauty of these eastern countries. Each city had different art and architectural styles, creating a transformative atmosphere. Mrs. Shapiro emphasized that students in Florence, Italy, can easily access many other parts of Europe. She advised students to use this accessibility and travel to areas they may not typically consider visiting. Mrs. Shapiro truly enjoyed her trip to Slovenia and Poland and said it was one of her most memorable adventures in the program.

Whether in the professional setting or in the context of travel, Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro emphasized the importance of seizing unexpected opportunities. Whether it is an internship or a flight to a city you don’t know much about, their advice is to take it! New environments allow you to learn new skills and enhance your knowledge. Whether in Florence or Washington, D.C., engaging in new opportunities can often lead to the most rewarding experiences. 

The students in the EUPS program appreciated seeing a window into Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro’s experience and philosophy. It is rare that Florence can welcome back not one, but two Dukes. While we know Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro have many adventures ahead of them, we hope their travels lead them back to Florence again! 

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Published: Thursday, November 30, 2023

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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