On Jan. 2, most William & Mary students started the two quietest weeks of their winter break. For 25 students, however, Jan. 2 marked the start of an intense, two-credit adventure in Washington, D.C. as part of the new W&M Washington Winter Seminar.
A pilot program run by the W&M Washington Office from Jan. 2 to Jan. 9, the seminar featured one class for 2014 -- “U.S. Politics and the World” -- taught by Newton Family Professor C. Lawrence Evans.
Billed as an accelerated program involving seminars, site visits and networking with experts and alumni, the winter seminar allowed students to “combine classroom and experiential learning while seeing the dynamic institutions of the Washington, D.C. area firsthand.”
Evans and the students spent each weekday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in lecture and class discussion, with panels of W&M alumni in the W&M Washington Office or with alumni and others at a wide variety of institutions. Each session focused on a central question: How does U.S. domestic politics shape U.S. foreign policy?
"Sessions like the January class are great because they expose our students directly to serious participants in the policy process,highlight the linkages that exist between our curriculum and the real world of politics, and also help demystify the process for students,” said Evans. “I want them to know that political and policy work is really interesting and that they are more than capable of playing similar roles after graduation."
Students in the class expressed enthusiasm about the opportunity to tackle the primary question of the class and to see D.C. from the inside.
Commenting on the course topic in her blog, Allie Rosenbluth ‘15 wrote that “[The class was] a chance for us to begin to understand how the mysterious world of D.C. works before being thrown into itafter leaving the comforting halls of William & Mary … or in Professor Evans’ own terms ‘demystifying the process.’”
Efe Brock ’13 said, “The most interesting aspect of the class was developing a frame of reference for the powerful ways our domestic politics really intertwines with our foreign affairs policies, and how pressures from one influence the other. It’s not something we ordinarily think about, but it’s a remarkable thing for one to witness what a large role our foreign interests have in shaping our domestic ones, and vice versa.”
Highlights of the week included: conversations with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Room and with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) in his personal office; meeting with political and economic officers at the British Embassy; conversations with W&M alumni at the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); case study presentations by consultants from Deloitte, PwC and Avascent; a panel discussion with Capitol Hill alums on Congressional staff; and behind-the-scenes tours of the Supreme Court and National Archives.
Additionally, during lunch and after class hours, the program sponsored a variety of networking, cultural and social events to show the students the best of Washington. Activities included: dinner with former Ambassador Janet Sanderson ‘77; a Capitol Hill networking reception with W&M President Taylor Reveley and 100 alumni; lunch with W&M Rector Todd Stottlemyer ‘85; tickets to see the Capitol Steps; a bus tour of the D.C. monuments; and ice skating on the National Mall.
“I don't think it would have been possible for me to make the connections I made or achieve opportunities and knowledge afforded to me without the help and guidance of Professor Evans and the staff at the W&M Washington Office," Lynne Boucher ’13 said. "I learned so much, not just about government, but about how to interact with professionals, how to communicate effectively about job and internship prospects, and how to find and apply for jobs utilizing networking. Not having spent much time in D.C. before the winter seminar, I learned about the rich and vast opportunities the city has to offer, especially to William & Mary grads.”
Because of the success of the program in 2014, plans are now being made for the university to offer the Washington Winter Seminar in 2015 and beyond.