Beyond the classroom: Washington, D.C., Summer Study Program

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October 15, 2010

By Megan Barrett ‘11

This past summer, 12 students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University had the opportunity to take their knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to our nation's capital as part of a rare internship experience.

The Washington, D.C., Summer Study Program is operated by the political science department at CSB and SJU in conjunction with The Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement at Saint John's University. Co-directed by assistant professor of political science Claire Haeg and professor of political science Matt Lindstrom, the program is designed to provide students with the chance to live and work in Washington, D.C., while earning academic credit.

The program, in its 32nd year, offers opportunities for students of any major. Previous program participants have worked on Capitol Hill with Senate or House offices, interned for executive branch agencies and non-profit organizations and served as journalists.

"I would recommend the program for any student who wants to obtain a good internship and is considering working and living in a big city," said George Ashenmacher, a SJU senior political science major who interned with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Of all the influential places the interns visited, a trip to the West Wing of the White House topped most students' lists. Denis McDonough, a 1992 SJU graduate and the National Security Council's chief of staff, led the group on the tour of the White House.

"It was an incredible privilege to tour one of the most symbolic buildings in the world and obtain a firsthand view of the Cabinet Room, the Oval Office and the Situation Room," said Colin Frederick, a SJU senior political science and communication double major who served as a research associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA).

During his internship at COHA, Colin also had the chance to talk with freelance reporter Ezra Fieser about his research on drug trafficking in the Caribbean. Fieser quoted Colin in an August Time magazine story about Dominican Republican drug trafficker Jose Figueroa-Agosto.

In addition to the work experience, weekly seminars and supplemental meetings gave interns the chance to network and create relationships with CSB and SJU alumnae/i and other professionals working in a broad range of careers, including public and foreign policy, international development, lobbying, journalism, consulting and law.

"Everyone that I met this summer wanted to help out in whatever way they could," said Michael Mollner, a SJU senior political science major who interned at David Turch & Associates. "Our schools have so many great people out in Washington, D.C., and hearing their advice was invaluable."

Other individual student highlights of the program included dining with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in the restaurant where he encouraged President Barack Obama to run for president, sitting in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's chair in the Situation Room of the White House and meeting Lilly Ledbetter, a woman who faced pay discrimination and fought a legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The work I completed while in Washington, D.C., has had such a meaningful impact on my life," said Jenny Schwope, a CSB senior political science and gender and women's studies double major who interned at the American Association of University Women. "Applying my academic coursework from the classroom and putting it into practice enabled me to grow as an individual and deepen my commitments to what I want to accomplish after I graduate."