School of Public Policy and Administration offers Winter Session in D.C.
8:46 a.m., Feb. 16, 2012--In a new “domestic study abroad” program, 20 University of Delaware undergraduates spent their Winter Session living and working on Capitol Hill.
Residing in two Washington, D.C., townhomes, with views of the Capitol building from their front door, the students in the inaugural Washington Fellows Winter Session Program gained a firsthand account of the ins and outs of politics, networked with congressmen and government leaderseven talking politics and career advice with Congressman John Carney and U.S. Senator Tom Carper while eating pizza and ice cream in their living roomand earned six college credits in the process.
The career connection
“Our goal was to expose them to government, politics and D.C. life, in general,” said Ed Freel, an instructor in the School of Public Policy and Administration with more than 40 years experience in state and national politics.
Freel served as faculty leader for the program, working with his contacts to arrange site visits and briefings with the city’s “movers and shakers,” many of whom are UD alums.
For instance, Paul Kane, a 1992 political science graduate with a concentration in journalism, discussed his position as congressional reporter for the Washington Post while meeting with students in the U.S. Senate press briefing room.
“It was incredible to receive career advice from someone working in the kind of position I hope to one day be in myself,” said junior Lauren Pitruzzello, an English and political science double major from Newington, Conn.
Freel worked closely with all students to place them in internships in government, nonprofit, congressional and lobbying agencies tailored to their personal interests.
Pitruzzello worked in the press office for U.S. Senator Chris Coons, writing briefings, talking points, press releases and blog posts. She even attended President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, listening to his remarks alongside fellow press secretaries and reporters.
Internships were placed around the city and in a wide variety of venues, such as Global Integrity, a non-profit organization founded by UD alum Charles Lewis and currently headed by another alum, Nathaniel Heller.
“Our alumni are doing incredible things in D.C. and across the nation, and yet they were all happy to mentor our students and give them real world, resume-building work experiences,” said Freel.
The classes were complemented by weekly meetings with Washington professionals, including Raquel Russell, a senior member of the President's Domestic Policy Council; Elizabeth Osborne, deputy assistant secretary for policy for the Department of Transportation; and Virginia Seitz, assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice.
“The site visits gave us access to incredible people, and we had the chance to ask them anything,” said Corinne O’Connor, a senior public policy major and political science minor from Newark, Del. “Things like, ‘Hey, what’s your typical day-to-day? How did you get to be where you are now?’
“How often does any student get that opportunity,” she added. “And with such a talented, successful group of people, no less.”
The Washington Fellows program is sponsored by the Democracy Project of the Institute for Public Administration and the Department of Political Science and International Relations and the School of Public Policy and Administration.