Climbing Capitol Hill

University of Georgia students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in U.S. politics and public policy making through a new Washington Semester Program beginning in spring 2008.

The program, being launched under the auspices of UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Instruction, will integrate coursework and internships every fall and spring semester for 20 UGA undergraduates. Students from all academic disciplines are eligible to participate. UGA alumni living and working in Washington will be invited to serve as mentors to provide additional guidance and support to participants.

As part of the program, the students will live together and attend classes while working approximately 30 hours per week as interns in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, law firms and private corporations. A graduate assistant will reside with the students and serve as their primary contact.

New program director Don De Maria said the Washington Semester Program was created following the successful implementation of summer internship programs administered by UGA’s Honors Program and UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Students started asking about the new Washington Semester Program even before an official announcement was made,” he said.

“I am excited about this new opportunity to enhance UGA’s presence in the nation’s capital,” said De Maria, who assumed his new role on July 30. “The establishment of the Washington Semester Program will provide a unique opportunity to connect academics with work experience in one of the world’s greatest cities. I look forward to creating a meaningful learning opportunity and witnessing the impact of this experience on our students.”

Participants in the Washington Semester Program will be required to enroll in 12 credit hours of courses offered by the program that will vary each semester. Six of those credit hours will include one traditional course and one seminar that will feature guest lecturers from UGA and D.C. The other six credit hours can be applied to directed study, research and/or internship courses through the student’s academic major department.

Susan Haire, associate professor of political science at UGA, will teach a course on politics and public policy in the U.S. in the inaugural semester. Her research and teaching background focus on the study of the judicial process, especially how it occurs in the lower courts. She is currently on leave from the university to serve as director of the Law and Social Science Program at the National Science Foundation in Washington.

To be eligible for the Washington Semester Program, a UGA student must have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA, enough credit hours for junior class status and be in good standing academically.

Participants will pay in-state tuition and a program fee to cover the costs of rent, utilities, Internet and program activities. Scholarships and other financial aid can be applied toward these expenses. Travel, food and other living expenses are not included.

Spring 2008 applications, which are now available online, are due Oct. 5. Applications for fall 2008 are due Feb.15, 2008.