Semester in Washington Program Offers Students an Inside View of Government

UAlbany's Semester in Washington cohort stand in front of the Washington Monument.

By Sophie Koutsoftas

ALBANY N.Y. (May 18, 2023) — A group of 13 students spent the Spring 2023 semester learning, living and interning in Washington, D.C.

The students, a mix of public policy majors and other students interested in public service, were selected for Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy’s “Semester in Washington” program, offering them an inside view of government from the capital city.

The program is offered every spring semester to UAlbany students in any major with junior or senior standing.

“It’s a mix of educational backgrounds, you don’t have to be a public policy major to have this opportunity,” said Meredith Weiss, Rockefeller College's director of graduate studies, a professor of political science and director of the Semester in Washington program. “This is an invaluable experience for our students, putting them in the same rooms and environments as Ivy League students and graduate students at just an undergraduate level.”

Through the program, students earn 12-15 credits by completing an internship with a public or private sector partner in Washington, such as Congress, the executive branch, news media and numerous U.S. and international non-government organizations. The students live together in the same housing complex, provided by the program, alongside other interns from across the county. 

In addition, they take a seminar class that helps them transition from student to professional. There are also networking opportunities with UAlbany alumni in the D.C.-area.

“We have a strong alumni network there,” Weiss said. “It’s one of the things that makes this program unique for our students.”

Building a Better Government

Emily Ordonez, a Class of 2023 graduate, wrapped up a bachelor’s degree in business economics as part of this year's Semester in Washington cohort. She interned with Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire a new generation of civil servants and transform how government works.

Ordonez was aiming for a research-based experience, and this internship intrigued her. The organization does research for the government on customer experience and helps modernize the services that are offered. 

UAlbany student Kayla Cooper stands with Senator Chuck Schumer.
Kayla Cooper interned at Senator Chuck Schumer's D.C. office.

“You don’t want to do something that you’ve done before. I had this opportunity to be in Washington D.C., so I wanted to branch out,” Ordonez said. “The Partnership for Public Service organization works on so many projects that each intern was able to specialize in their own project, so we weren't lumped together. I really felt like I was part of the team. 

"Being in D.C. is very fun, you get to explore, and you don’t have to go out of the country to get a study abroad experience.”

Aspiring Elected Official 

Working on Capitol Hill, Kayla Cooper, political science and public policy administration major, interned at Senator Chuck Schumer’s D.C. office. to complete her junior year.

“I want to run for office," Cooper said. “I think that today a lot of empathy and compassion is missing from politics. I can provide that. I’ve done a lot of work in local politics in my hometown (Buffalo) and in Albany; I worked with the mayor's office, Buffalo City Hall, and I’ve done some campaign work. This internship helped me get an idea of politics on a national level from a leadership standpoint.

“You get so many perspectives on how to pass laws and how those laws affect the world around you. There can be ups and downs. Learning how to be patient when things in the Senate can move slowly is a part of the leadership experience. It’s important to have a foot in the door, and this program gives me that advantage.”

Interested in applying? Applications are accepted in the fall and spring for the following two semesters. See Handshake for the current application and timeline.