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Students intern in nation’s capital

| Wednesday, November 2, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Notre Dame Washington Program is Notre Dame’s only off-campus academic program located in the United States. Every semester, a fresh cohort of 15 students with diverse interests and majors finds themselves immersed in the cultural and political life of Washington, D.C.

Students walk down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall while studying in Washington, D.C. Fifteen students are participating in this semester’s program.Justine Wang | The Observer

Students walk down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall while studying in Washington, D.C. Fifteen students are participating in this semester’s program.

Students in the program live in Dupont Circle, just minutes away from the White House and a vast array of shops and restaurants.

Besides taking a required core seminar and two consortium-offered electives, students apply for and participate in an internship of their choice, for a total of 15 credits. As a supplement to the core seminar, students attend weekly “public policy visits” for which they have toured Capitol Hill, attended a briefing at the U.S. Department of State and met with Notre Dame alumni who work in journalism, lobbying, law and government.

“In addition to taking advantage of the ability to connect what they learn in the classroom with practical experience at their internship, students in the Washington Program are immersed in the epicenter of politics and policy,” Claudia Anewalt, manager of the Washington Program and director of the Hesburgh Program in Public Service, said. “This combination provides students interested in policy and government-related fields an unparalleled foundation to jump-start their careers.”

Students intern in a number of different industries: media, lobbying, advocacy, law, government and think tank organizations. This year’s group has internships at congressional offices, the NAACP, the U.S. Department of State, Business Executives for National Security and the Center for American Progress.

Having grown up in the city of Chicago, it’s nice to be back in an urban area with so many fun things to do and see — and public transit to get you there,” junior Kathleen Rocks said. “I have loved exploring the different neighborhoods of D.C. There’s a lot of character in this city and getting to know each part has been really interesting.”

Rocks is interning at the Georgetown Law Criminal Justice Clinic, a small public defender office, where she helps investigate the cases of low-income clients.

“Every day might be different,” Rocks said. “I might be tracking down a government witness to get a statement, trying to convince police officers to talk to me, canvassing a scene for witnesses and video footage or even testifying in court about my investigation in the field.”

“It has been a really interesting look at the criminal justice system,” she added. “And I have had the opportunities to help out clients and to work with the clinic attorneys to address injustices in our legal system first-hand.”

This semester, students attending the program also find themselves at the center of the political scene, as the nation awaits the election of its 45th president.

“Being in D.C. for yet another historic election is an opportunity I am so grateful to be a part of,” junior Kathryne Robinson said. “The possibility of having our first female president is so super exciting, [and] being able to vote in my first presidential election for what could be the first ‘Madam President’ is the best feeling ever.”

For a public policy visit, Notre Dame students met with Notre Dame alumnus Matt Schlapp, who previously served as President George W. Bush’s deputy assistant and is now chairman of the American Conservative Union. Over a luncheon, Schlapp talked about his concurrent role serving on presidential candidate Donald Trump’s Catholic Advisory Board and shared his perspectives on the election as a Catholic and a Republican.

“One of the best moments of the year came when we got to sit down with Matt Schlapp,” junior Julio Salazar said. “He shared his thoughts on the election [and] the candidates, and offered insight into his support of the Republican presidential candidate. Good discussion and challenging ideas were brought up, and I believe everyone left having learned something about the other side.”

Salazar, an intern at CBS News, said it’s certainly an exciting time to be living in the nation’s capital.

“Living in Washington D.C. during the most contentious presidential election since 1800 has been a whirlwind of an experience,” he said. “Working at CBS mandates that I be plugged into the election at all times. I have watched more Trump and Clinton rallies than anyone should ever have to.”

So many, he added, that he claims to have a Trump impression to rival Alec Baldwin.

“It’s really special to be living in the nation’s capital in the midst of a transition of power,” Salazar said.

The Washington Program is now accepting applications for the 2017-2018 academic year, and is open to sophomores and juniors of any major. Students can find more information online at http://rooneycenter.nd.edu/washington-program/.

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