Duke’s public policy students will soon have the chance to hit Capitol Hill for a semester-long learning experience.
A new program through the Sanford School of Public Policy will give students the opportunity to spend a semester studying and working in Washington, D.C. The program will combine a public policy internship with related coursework for a collaborative experience based on pressing national issues, Dean of Sanford Bruce Kuniholm said. It is expected to begin Spring 2013.
Senior Lauren Hendricks, president of the public policy majors union, has been part of the program’s planning process for the past year. Hendricks said she began to think about a potential Duke in D.C. program after attending a Duke in New York Arts & Media program that also combined coursework and an internship.
“As policy students, we spend most of our time discussing what goes on in D.C.,” she said. “Sanford is sort of like a think tank.... We are always looking at what you can do to change policy. The best place to see that in a practical way is Washington.”
Duke in D.C.’s theme would change every year, depending on the political climate, Kuniholm said. If the program were to take place this semester, for example, students might work in a congressional office while taking courses about debt crisis management.
Hendricks said the program will likely provide classes taught by Sanford professors, which will meet three days a week and an internship experience two days a week.
“Combine getting grades with guidance from an internship—it makes a lot of sense,” she said.
The semester would also involve a residential experience so that students could discuss public policy issues and share experiences when they return from their classes and internships in the evening, Kuniholm said.
The Duke in D.C. program is building off of Sanford’s existing relationships with D.C. agencies as well as its current faculty strengths, Kuniholm said. Sanford has always had internship opportunities in D.C., though this is the first time they will be paired with coursework.
He added that Kristin Goss, assistant professor of public policy and political science, will serve as director of the initiative. Kuniholm praised Goss for her creative research and teaching skills as well as her extensive work experience in D.C.
Goss said she has been away from Duke for the summer and has not been present for most of the recent planning meetings. She therefore declined to comment further.
Hendricks said that while working on a proposal for the D.C. program, she reached out to Goss to gauge her interest.
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Goss will be involved in future development meetings, Kuniholm said. These meetings will work on solidifying partnerships with D.C. agencies, defining the curriculum and finalizing student housing.
The program will most likely be conducted through both Sanford and the Global Education Office for Undergraduates. This will mark the first U.S. program developed since 2009, when the office officially expanded its mission to include domestic initiatives and changed its name from the Office of Study Abroad to its current name, wrote Director Margaret Riley in an email Monday.
“It will enhance our domestic offerings with a program that will be of great interest to public policy students and others,” Riley said.
And though Sanford will not be the sole overseer of the program, it is possible that Duke in D.C. might only be open to students pursuing the public policy studies major, Kuniholm said, noting that final decision on who can participate has yet to be made. One factor administrators will consider is student demand.
University administrators have conducted surveys, which have demonstrated a wide interest among Duke students for a program in D.C., Kuniholm said. Public policy student who do participate will likely have the ability to fulfill some core major requirements while in D.C.
Hendricks added that even though the planning and fundraising for the program is not yet complete, she believes Duke in D.C. will be a positive asset to students’ education.
“I know that if students take advantage of this, it’s going to be a really collaborative experience unlike anything else you’re going to get at Sanford right now,” she said. “I would have done it if it was in place when I was a junior.”