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Pacific’s Washington Semester Program Delivers Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

Oct 19, 2011

During his Washington Semester internship in fall 2008, Political Science student John Orofino met with then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama.
During his Washington Semester internship in fall 2008, Political Science student John Orofino met with then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Every year, several students from Pacific spend a semester interning in Washington D.C. Without exception they consider it the most memorable experience of their college years.

"Students returning from Washington can't contain their excitement," said Dr. George Condon, Adjunct Professor of Political Science and Internships Director for the Jacoby Center, who directs Pacific's Washington Semester program as well as the Sacramento Experience internship program. "They enthusiastically report on the experiences they've had and people they've met through their seminars and internships. Many hope to return to Washington or work in other capitals after they graduate."

Through the program, students spend a semester at American University in Washington D.C.  and participate in a combination of internship, academic and seminar experiences. They intern for a wide range of organizations, including government agencies, lobbying organizations, political parties, media outlets, foreign embassies and non-profit institutes.

Each student chooses an area of concentration, such as American politics or economic policy, and takes a related seminar course that includes guest speakers such as political figures, lobbyists, think-tank scholars and journalists. Students also have opportunities to participate in field trips, including travel to other states and even other countries.

When living on the American University campus, which houses over 400 program participants each semester, students are in close proximity to the unique resources of Washington D.C.

"The students really get to know Washington D.C.," said Dr. Condon. "They go all over the capital area on weekends, taking in the sights, visiting historic places and experiencing the culture."

Below are highlights from three recent participants in the program.

Ty-Licia Hooker '12

Ty-Licia at a holiday tour of the White House

Ty-Licia at a holiday tour of the White House

Political Science major with a self-designed minor in Education Policy

Ty-Licia was a Youth and Leadership intern for the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). Some of her tasks included:

  • Planning the YALT (Youth Advocacy Leadership Training) conference for some of America's most talented leaders in child advocacy and community issues.

  • Putting together a college guide for CDF's Beat the Odds campaign—a program that provides scholarships and recognition to extraordinary high school seniors who have overcome tremendous adversity.

  • Helping to create an access database of the Children's Defense Fund network.

Referring to the Transforming Communities seminar she attended, Ty-Licia said, "By far this has been the best seminar course I have ever participated in. As part of the course I was able to visit every ward in D.C. and case study each community with my class."

Insider Insights

Ty-Licia lived off campus in WISH Housing on Capitol Hill rather than the American University campus. "I had lived on Pacific's campus where I felt like I was well taken care of. I had a meal plan, RA, and home only 20 minutes away. In D.C. I did not have those privileges. This opportunity taught me how to grow up fast—I learned how to become an adult."

Memorable Moment

"The most memorable part of my job was attending the YALT conference, where I met other youth leaders who were just as on fire about issues in their community as I was."

Lasting Impressions

"This is by far one of the best experiences I have ever had. My seminar, my internship, my community service and the friends that I made have changed me for the better and impacted my life and my future beyond what I could have asked for. After being in this program I am much more socially and politically conscious of the crises we are facing domestically and abroad."

Julia Sweeney '11

Julia riding a bike at the Mall.

Julia riding a bike at the Mall.

Political Science major and Pacific Legal Scholar

Julia interned with six other California students in Senator Barbara Boxer's office. Some of her tasks included:

  • Sorting mail and other office work

  • Organizing invitations addressed to the Senator

  • Checking and noting voice mails

  • Answering phones and explaining policies to constituents

  • Giving Capitol tours to California constituents

"The best part of the internship was attending congressional hearings and press briefings for different staffers in the office and preparing memos," said Julia. "I attended many hearings on Internet safety and how to protect youth online."

She also enjoyed the social aspects of the Washington Semester program, such as playing softball on the Mall with her office staff, in the summer senate softball league.

Insider Insight

"Bring an umbrella and be ready to be caught in random downpours!"

Memorable Moment

Julia was honored to watch Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan be questioned before Congress, but she faced difficult situations too. While discussing unemployment bills with constituents, a woman said she had no point in living anymore and planned to commit suicide. She was in her fifties, had no family, couldn't get a job after sending out 700 applications, and could no longer afford her medication.

Julia transferred the woman to the care of the Capital police. "Listening to the hard realities of unemployment was one of the most difficult, but eye-opening, experiences I had while in D.C."

Lasting Impressions

"I recommend this program 100%. My college experience would not have been the same without it. Living at American University was very fun and I made some great friendships!"

Michael Morris '11

Dressed for success in D.C.!

Dressed for success in D.C.!

Economics major

Mike served as a research intern for The Polling Company in Dupont Circle. His responsibilities included:

  • Working on public opinion polling, surveying and market research.

  • Working with politicians, schools, businesses and advocacy groups.

During his Economic Policy seminar, Mike heard speakers from the Federal Reserve, the Indian Embassy, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). "It was a great way to get an inside look at economic policy in D.C.," said Mike. "The Washington Semester Program let me see how the theories I learn in class play out in the real world and to figure out how I can become part of that world."

Almost a quarter of the students in the Washington Semester Program at American University are from countries outside the United States, so Mike felt it was a great way to get an international perspective while still staying in the U.S.

Insider Insights

"My roommates were great and most of the people in my program would hang out on weekends and after class—we were all pretty close." Mike admitted that he was having too much fun to be homesick, except when he wanted Mexican food. "The west coast certainly has D.C. beat there!"

Memorable Moment

As part of the Economic Policy concentration, Mike spent a weekend in New York City, where he met with people from Standard and Poor's and saw the floor of the New York Mercantile exchange.

Lasting Impressions

"I loved the program! I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and the Washington Semester Program allowed me to get out into the world and explore the career opportunities that Washington D.C. offers. The experience has motivated me to want to find a job there and move back."

Applications for Pacific's Washington Semester Program begin in the fall. To learn more, please contact:

Dr. George Condon
Jacoby Center for Public Service and Civic Leadership
Wendell Phillips Center, Room 241
Email Link Email

Also visit: http://www.american.edu/washingtonsemester//

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