Washington Semester Program accepting applications for 2011

Students interested in the Washington Semester Program can study at Georgetown University, which offers four different tracks, or American University, which offers 10 tracks. (credit: Alexandre Kaspar/Photo Staff) Students interested in the Washington Semester Program can study at Georgetown University, which offers four different tracks, or American University, which offers 10 tracks. (credit: Alexandre Kaspar/Photo Staff)

For those with an interest in public policy or government, the Washington Semester Program at Carnegie Mellon provides a chance to study for a semester in Washington, D.C. through American University, and, more recently, Georgetown University. With tracks as diverse as Law and Society, Peace and Conflict Resolution, and Global Economics and Business, the program offers many opportunities for personal and professional development.

Depending upon a student’s particular interest, one can study through American University, Georgetown University, or the Capital Semester Fund for American Studies. The program a student chooses would be based on his or her preferred track and/or financial concerns. In particular, Georgetown offers four tracks; American University offers 10 tracks, including American Politics; and the Fund for American Studies offers Public Policy and Political Journalism. There is a consortium tuition agreement with American University so that students will continue to pay Carnegie Mellon tuition. A similar plan is tentatively being arranged with Georgetown University for the spring semester. Students with strong academic records can also apply for Friedman Fellowships through Carnegie Mellon.

Unique to this program is the fact that every student also has an internship. “I think the internship is really the driving force in the program, in that it gives students a chance to have professional experience, to develop those skills ... and to make professional contacts,” said Amanda Kennard, a staff member for the International Relations and Policy (IRP) program.

There are numerous internship opportunities in D.C., ranging from the White House, to non-governmental organizations, to consulting and advocacy firms. Nancy Brown, a junior ethics, history, and public policy major, is pursuing public policy through the Fund for American Studies. Her internship is with the National Academy for Social Insurance, a nonprofit organization that works with policymakers, lawmakers, and others to provide information to the public.

“One of the things I wanted to do was have an internship and take classes at the same time.... The Washington Semester Program really made that possible,” Brown said.

Nicole Rappin, a senior BHA student, is pursuing International Peace and Conflict Resolution through the American University program, which has an international component in Eastern Europe as well. Her internship is with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, an agency of the United Nations. During her internship, Rappin said she would “attend different meetings and events throughout D.C. on topics related to international development” and then “report back to IFAD headquarters in Rome.”

It is suggested that students check with their advisors when they know that they have an interest in this program. Once admitted to the program, students will have to verify classes with their advisors.

Any questions or concerns can be directed to the International Relations and Politics (IRP) program. Students in any major and any school are able to apply, and applications should be given to the IRP program by Sept. 23. Currently, there are four students participating in the program, and eight students have participated from spring 2009 through spring 2010. At the time of the semester in D.C., students must be in the second semester of their sophomore year, the first semester of their senior year, or anywhere in between. Currently, applications are open to first-semester sophomores through second-semester juniors.

“It has been a transformative opportunity for the students who go to Washington. They come back with more of an intuitive understanding of politics, and thus they add a quality to class discussions that would otherwise be absent,” said Kiron Skinner, an associate professor of social and decision sciences and director of the IRP program.