UGA students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in U.S. politics and public policy-making through the 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, D.C., will be invited to serve as mentors to provide additional guidance and support to participants.
“I asked the vice president for instruction to develop this new university-wide program to continue the institution’s focus on building the undergraduate learning environment,” said Provost Arnett C. Mace Jr. “I am confident that this program will be very educational and extremely popular with our students.”
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 or 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 College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“Students started asking about the new Washington Semester Program even before an official announcement was made,” he said.
De Maria has been meeting with various campus groups to promote the program and plans to use online resources such as e-mail, the UGA Web site and Facebook to generate further attention. A Web site for the Washington Semester Program was launched Sept. 13.
“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.”
De Maria has been on staff at UGA since 1999, serving most recently as assistant director of the Honors Program. He is currently completing his doctorate in higher education at UGA.
“The development of this new and innovative program required the selection of a visionary person who possesses a high level of energy and creativity,” said Jere W. Morehead, vice president for instruction. “I selected Don for this important role based upon his impressive track record in program development for the Honors Program, his prior experience in University Housing and his personal knowledge of the Washington area as a graduate of George Washington University.”
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, D.C.
“Our class will provide an academic setting to discuss current issues and the dynamics which shape American politics and the policy process,” said Haire. “I believe that students in the program will become more actively engaged in civic life as a result of their participation in the Washington Semester Program. I look forward to being a part of this first session.”
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.
Spring 2008 applications, which are now available online, are due Oct. 5. Applications for fall 2008 are due Feb. 15.