Society & Culture

UGA’s Washington Semester Program welcomes largest, most academically diverse group

Nylah Oliver D.C. bw-h
Nylah Oliver

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia’s Washington Semester Program marks its seventh year with the largest, most academically diverse group in program history as students moved into the newly renovated UGA in Washington facility. Twenty-nine students-the largest group in program history-represent 17 majors in five colleges.

The students are interning in offices including Congress, museums, law enforcement, think tanks, public relations firms and media groups. In addition to their internships, students are enrolled in UGA coursework taught by Paul Kurtz, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law and Associate Dean Emeritus, and Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

The increase in the number of students in the program is due in large part to the new building that the university opened at the beginning of January. Located in the heart of Capitol Hill, the residential facility accommodates up to 32 students. The 20,000 square-foot building includes classroom and study space, common living areas, conference rooms, lounges, kitchens and suite-style rooms.

Since the program’s inception in 2008, 262 students have participated in the university’s only Washington, D.C.-based program available to undergraduate students across all colleges and schools. It also is the only UGA program in Washington, D.C. that combines coursework, internships and a residential living environment during the fall or spring semester where students have the opportunity to gain real-world work experience in the U.S. while receiving full-time course credit.

Nylah Oliver, a junior from Atlanta majoring in digital and broadcast journalism and who is interning with Voice of America, believes this is one of the best decisions she has made in her college career.

“The exposure and experience I’ve gained from my internship thus far have been nothing short of amazing,” she said. “Interning in D.C. has opened up many more doors of endless opportunities. The Washington Semester Program is molding me into a stronger leader and puts me in a place to gain the best experience in my field and to be ahead of the game and more prepared in my major.”

Each term, every student receives a minimum $500 scholarship provided by the University of Georgia Foundation. These funds are designated to offset the increased cost of living in Washington, D.C., and to reward selection into the program.

“Scholarships are funded for students participating in the fall and spring semesters by the UGA Foundation Washington Semester Program Scholarship and by WSP supporters through our annual fund. These scholarships provide needed support to students who often work in unpaid internships to gain the necessary work experience to successfully compete in the job market,” said Don DeMaria, director of the program since its launch.

The spring 2015 participants, their hometowns, years, majors and internship placements are:

Chris Burkett, Athens, senior, political science, cognitive science and psychology, McKenna Long & Aldridge.
Chris Divine, Roswell, senior, political science and international affairs, Office of Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Ruth Fisher, Athens, senior, history and pre-law, Office of Congressman Rob Woodall.
Cristal Gomez, Douglas, senior, criminal justice, Washington, D.C. Public Defenders Office.
Chelsea Gray, Atlanta, senior, advertising, Edelman Public Relations.
Bernadette Green, Senoia, senior, public relations, Office of Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Madeline Hawkins, Norcross, senior, public relations, Smithsonian Institution.
Mariah James-Wyrick, Athens, junior, political science, Office of Congressman Sanford Bishop.
David Kim, Sugar Hill, senior, criminal justice, Center for American Progress.
Abi Lambert, Atlanta, senior, sociology and mass media arts, New America.
Laura Lee, McDonough, senior, communication studies, ASPCA.
Stephanie Lightfoot, Gainesville, senior, international affairs, Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies.
Gina Mackey, Bogart, junior, marketing, UGA Government Relations.
Ricky Meadows, Athens, senior, political science/ business economics, American Action Forum.
Damien Michel, Saint Jean de Luz, France, exchange student, international relations, National Defense Industrial Association.
Torie Ness, Gastonia, North Carolina, senior, political science, Office of Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Sam Newton, Atlanta, senior, political science, international affairs, Office of Congressman John Lewis.
Trang Nguyen, South Bend, Indiana, senior, communication studies, Avalere Health.
Nylah Oliver, Atlanta , junior, digital and broadcast journalism, Voice of America.
Harrison Payne, Forsyth, senior, international affairs, Office of Congressman Doug Collins.
Allison Plummer, Norcross, junior, magazine journalism, Office of Congressman Austin Scott.
Jackie Ryback, Woodstock, senior, international affairs, music, Office of Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Megan Smith, Alpharetta, junior, magazine journalism, Smithsonian Institution.
Erin Thomas, Dunwoody, senior, history, Center for American Progress.
Javier Trejo, Cumming, senior, political science, Office of Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Andrew Vickers, Ambrose, senior, criminal justice, U.S. Marshals Service.
Mariana Viera, Alpharetta, junior, political science and public affairs journalism, Student Press Law Center.
Kathleen Wilson, Beaumont, Texas, senior, international affairs and economics, U.S. Department of State.
Akshun Yadav, Alpharetta, junior, international affairs, entomology, Office of Congressman Hank Johnson.

For more information on the program, see