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Washington, D.C., Up Close

Posted on Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The nation's capital is rich with American culture - a city brimming with museums, organizations, lawmakers, advocates and monuments to the United States' perseverance. This semester, Professor of Economics Alan Frishman and Professor of Public Policy and Political Science Craig Rimmerman have worked to guide nineteen students through the vast city, its economics and its public policies as part of the competitive Washington, D.C. program.

Students enrolled in the semester-long study program are required to take three courses and work at an internship. Each professor instructs a class separately, with Frishman instructing "The American Economy and Federal Government Policy," and Rimmerman is teaching "The President, Congress, and Public Policy," and the two work together to lead a seminar on the city of Washington, D.C. itself.

"The great strengths of the Washington, D.C. program are the internships and resources of the city itself.  All of the students get the chance to do meaningful internships and thus get work experience and learn how a work environment functions," says Frishman. "There are so many museums and sites to visit in the city that one can never be satiated."

With excursions to Arlington National Cemetery, the Frederick Douglas house in Anacostia, and even locations such as the Walker-Whitman AIDS Clinic and the National Capital Planning Commission, students have been given a dense and expansive view of the Hill, using the capital as a classroom.

"What inspires me most is watching our students thrive and grow as a result of the many challenges associated with the D.C. program," says Rimmerman. "Working a nearly full-time internship coupled with taking three courses is no easy task.  I do know that this program will help ready our students for the world beyond Hobart and William Smith Colleges."

Whitney Barnett '14, a studio art major with a minor in public policy, was drawn to the D.C. program by the internships requirement. "I loved the idea of working at an internship for one of my classes; it is a wonderful way to further explore the city and meet more people," says Barnett.

Her internship, as a public education and outreach intern at the Human Rights Campaign, has been the highlight of her experience. "Everyone is passionate about equal, human rights, specifically the LGBT community, and I am so proud to be working with such an organization," explains Barnett. "I'm learning hands on about the laws and people who are trying to help further - or destroy - LGBT rights." 

Lauren Borislow '14, a public policy major, was first introduced to the program while taking a class with Rimmerman. "The thought of being in this city during election season was really exciting to me," says Borislow. "With such a heated election, it's really interesting to cover all of the commotion in a classroom setting.

Outside of the classroom, Borislow has pursued public policy issues at her internship at the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, where she has been serving in the government relations department. "I have been able to attend hearings and markups on the hill - and that alone has made the entire experience worth it," explains Borislow. "Reading about what happens in the newspaper and in textbooks is one thing, but actually sitting and watching the congressmen and women discuss issues brings it to life."

Molly Doris-Pierce '15, a public policy and psychology double major, views D.C. as a rare and wonderful learning experience. "I believe it has pushed me to be my best, and has encouraged me to keep sight of why I chose HWS," says Doris-Pierce, who interned with Save the Children in the U.S. Programs division.

One of the strongest aspects of the program, Doris-Pierce believes, is the interesting and enriching group discussion that the seminar inspires. "We have talked about everything ranging from politics to urban planning," says Doris-Pierce. "I have learned a lot about communicating effectively with others who may have differing ideas and values from my own."

Maggie Markham '14, a public policy and environmental studies double major, hopes that the Washington, D.C. program is a first step to entering into the job market following graduation. In a time when internships are more competitive than ever before, Markham sees her internship as a way to build her skill set and gain experience in a career on the Hill.

Through her internship at ecoAmerica, Markham has worked to change how the average American views and values the environment though analyzing market research to create programs. "The internship has helped in my coursework simply by creating connections between policy issues that I didn't realize existed before," says Markham. "I also get to see the inner workings of a nonprofit - and how business relations work in general."

Elizabeth Seidel  '13, an international relations major, decided to enroll in the D.C. program after spending time in the capital as part of the annual Day on the Hill, which allows students to meet with alums working in the city and explore a multitude of careers on the Hill.

"The program is not only a perfect match for my academic interests, but it is also an amazing opportunity to gain real life experience," says Seidel, who has been working with the Republican National Committee in the finance department.

In all, the D.C. program is an immense experience. "I find it rewarding to see all of the students mature in a short amount of time and learn how to cope with a large city, work four days a week and take three courses," remarks Frishman. "They form bonding relationships with one another and with their professors which is one of benefits of this program and a small college like Hobart and William Smith."

The group photo above was taken at the Federal Reserve Bank.

 


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