Students, faculty discuss experiences in Washington Program

For those looking to gain internship experience while studying off-campus, the Notre Dame Washington Program poses an exciting and unique opportunity. Open to sophomores and juniors, the program boasts alumni who have gone on to work with The Washington Post, CNN, Facebook and in Congress. 

Students spend at least three days a week at their internships and take elective classes in the evenings, ranging from art history to legislative politics.

Every Thursday, students gather with the director of the program, Professor Thomas Kellenberg, who leads the seminar on “Introduction to Public Policy” and “Public Policy Visits,” where topics of discussion include democracy, rights and cost-benefit analysis. 

Within this seminar and other classes, students have the opportunity to speak with a variety of experts and high-ranking government officials about their discussion topics.

Sophomore Fionn Barr found the talk by Paul Lewis, former department of defense special envoy for Guantanamo closure, particularly interesting.

“He was the head of closing down Guantanamo Bay,” Barr said. “He talked about immigration and the problems they faced in trying to find a viable and humanitarian solution to deal with the prisoners in the camp.” 

Highlighting the importance of students’ exposure to these speakers and their various careers, Claudia Francis, the program’s associate director, said, “Being able to connect the classroom to the real world afterward is helpful for them to figure out the next step in their path forward.” 

This sentiment holds true for Barr.

“I think one of the best things this program has done for me is help discern what my future career path will be,” he said. “The guest speakers have had a huge impact on that, especially when considering postgraduate degrees.” 

When considering the impacts of the internships, Francis added, “The networking component is really beneficial for our students to help them understand the policy landscape in D.C. and what types of positions appeal to them.” 

Sophomore architecture student Myldred Hernandez-Gonzalez has her sights set on working in housing in the future, and through interning with the Neighborhood Development Company, a for-profit, mission-driven real estate developer that creates affordable housing units in the D.C. area, she has been able to envision this plan becoming a reality. 

“I never thought I could work for a for-profit company,” she said. “So it’s been really interesting to work in that space and look at how companies can be mission-driven and still make a profit.” 

Another unique aspect of the program is its inclusion of human rights clinics such as its Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act Clinic and United Nations Special Procedures/Periodic Review Clinics, where students get to take part in hands-on, human rights advocacy work.

“I know of only one other university in the country that offers undergraduates the opportunity to do human rights work,” Kellenberg said. 

The deadline to apply for next year’s program is Nov. 27. 

“We are looking for students who are going to represent the University well and work well with each other,” Francis said. “Students who are going to have a really impactful time in D.C. and that participating in the Washington Program is going to propel them further in their career and their personal career discernment.” 

Barr said the experience has been eye-opening and rewarding.

“I think that anyone can benefit no matter what major you are,” he said.


Dilemma: Internship or retail?

Dear reader, welcome back to the chaos. Since the last time you’ve read a word written by me, the temperature has dropped to cardigan and corduroy weather. Not only that, but we’ve begun our approach to midterm season. It can be daunting to head into midterms every year, even though we somehow manage it every year. I’m feeling a bit confident in my midterms this year, but the surrounding context is troubling me, and I might want some advice.

I am currently working three jobs, two on campus and one off-campus. I have been offered an awesome opportunity in the community of South Bend to be able to help teach students art. This is big. If you don’t know me personally, I want to be a teacher and I am currently a Visual Arts major. You would think I would drop everything for this opportunity, no? You’re absolutely on the right track. See, if I had the money, I would devote all my time to it. But that is not the case. I am currently trying to figure out how to pay for school during the semester and still haven’t gotten great at it. It’s not easy. Even with the three jobs I have, saving more next semester is not easy. So here is my dilemma: do I leave one of my jobs to keep the internship? 

I am currently a super-senior/junior, a dynamic that I have not really come to fully understand and neither has most of the Arts department here at Holy Cross, but we’re riding the wave. As part of the Holy Cross College experience, every student is required to complete an internship. As a past education major, I wouldn’t have had a problem with this because my student teaching would have covered this requirement. But after switching majors, I am left to fulfill the requirement. And here lies the issue: I am ready to graduate. The last five years have been great, but I want to experience the real world. Mind you, I will miss the Bend and the way college has afforded me awesome memories, but home is calling my name. Graduate studies are also calling. The dynamic of also being a 22, almost 23-year-old in undergraduate studies is another conversation we can have. But with this internship, I would most likely quit my retail job. 

Retail has been a part of my life for the last four years. It is a part of my personality at this point. I love seeing people at every shift and love the things they are walking out with. I help kids get ready for back to school, or help wedding parties and even prom-posals come springtime. But the smiles and infectious energy can’t seem to keep me there either. I wish I could say that the environment from last summer, when I started at my current retail job, was the same. My favorite staff members have left and I am the only one left. My manager, the person that got me my job and kept me there, has found a new position doing the things she wanted to do. I can’t be mad at her, if anything I actually still talk to her and tell her everything about my life and congratulate her on her own path too. The discount will be missed but I know that there are other avenues to take. 

See, I know I should quit. And I think it would behoove me to do so, but what to do with all the time I have? Not to suffer too badly from main character syndrome, but what would I be if my hyper-fixation wasn’t working? In a very far-off way, this feels like a break-up with someone that you’ve fallen out of love with. I usually would default to a Taylor Swift song to help me get through this, but I can’t pinpoint one to figure this whole mess out. If I could find one close to what is going on right now it would be something off of Red (Taylor’s Version). We’re about the same age, going through a breakup and just feeling all the young adult feelings. I want to run and hide again and again because of this whole situation, but I know that by the end of this I will get 1989. I can’t wait for my pop rebrand, my squad era and an iconic fashion era of striped shirts and miniskirts. Here’s to the upcoming week; may we all get our essays in on time, our homework done without too much stress and a couple of iced-black-tea-add-espressowith-oatmilk-vanilla-and-apple-crisp-syrup this week from LaFun or AveBrew. 

So, what should I do?

Gabriel B. Ibarra is a Chicago native currently attending Holy Cross College majoring in Visual Arts — Studio Track — with a minor in Elementary Education. If not crying to any of Taylor Swift’s re-recordings, you can find them somewhere in the tri-campus causing chaos with laughs, pointed jokes and one of many emotional support water bottles in hand, or leading Holy Cross College’s First Generation Club as the vice-president. Learning to write for a newspaper is harder than expected, so they can be contacted on Twitter @gbenito11 or via email at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.