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Washington Bound 

Kaylin Harrington of Vestal, N.Y., stepped out of her comfort zone and ended up stepping inside the West Wing of the White House.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 13, 2016) – Starting in fall 2017, UAlbany’s Washington Semester will be offered in the fall and in the spring.

“Students who’ve gone to Washington for a semester consistently say that it was one of the most valuable experiences they had in their undergraduate careers,” said Chair and Professor of Political Science Julie Novkov.

Until now, the program was only offered during the spring semester. By adding it during the fall semester as well, more students will have the chance to live and study in the nation’s capital.

The change was created to further support the new undergraduate major for the College of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security, since this major requires students to complete a semester length internship, said Yalitza Negron, director of internships and career services at Rockefeller College. The fall semester will focus on global and homeland security courses. Students can start applying in the spring.

The change will make it easier for students to take advantage of the New York State Assembly and Senate internship programs that are offered in the spring.

Interim Dean of Rockefeller College R. Karl Rethemeyer said, “The combination of both the Albany and Washington experience provides an unparalleled introduction to politics and policy at both the state and federal level. We expect our students most dedicated to a career in public service will do both.”

Interim Dean of the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity David Rousseau said, “Given that Washington, D.C., is at the center of policy making and program implementation in areas such as terrorism, intelligence, border security, immigration disaster response and cybersecurity, placing a significant portion of our students in internships in the Washington metropolitan area is essential.”

Kaylin Harrington of Vestal, N.Y., and Melody Tien of Bayside, Queens, completed the internship in the spring.

“My experience in D.C. gave me independence away from home and away from campus,” said Tien, a senior who is a double major in criminal justice and Chinese studies as well as in the School of Criminal Justice’s BA/MA program.

“The semester allowed me to reflect on my career options as well as whether I wanted to pursue a career similar to my internship experience,” she said. The best part of her experience was working with victim advocates at the Metropolitan Police Department’s Victim Services Branch, volunteering with their Asian Liaison Unit.

The Washington Semester also connects undergrads with UAlbany alumni, offering the chance to network.

“I was fortunate to be paired with my mentor, John Sly, who was very helpful throughout my semester,” said Tien.

In addition to helping students secure internships consistent with their interests, the program offers rigorous academic courses, said Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education at Rockefeller College Anne Hildreth, who is also an associate professor of political science.

“One way the program transforms students is by asking them to balance competing demands and helping them stretch and grow as doers, writers and thinkers,” Hildreth said. This year faculty from the Program in Writing and Critical Inquiry (WCI) are helping Rockefeller College design and deliver a short course that will help students hone their research and writing skills for the types of tasks they will undertake in D.C.

UAlbany's Melody Tien of Bayside, Queens.

Melody Tien of Bayside, Queens, gained independence and a new perspective on her career options through the semester in D.C. 

Kaylin Harrington went to D.C. in spring 2016, where one of her experiences was working inside the West Wing and observing the operations behind President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

She worked in the Executive Office of the President, which aids the Secret Service in daily and emergency operations during major events. Her internship was with the Office of Continuity of Preparations & Emergency Preparedness.

“I still cannot believe that I had the opportunity to intern there and I am still humbled by it to this day,” Harrington said. What advice would she give to other students who want to try the Washington Semester?

“Apply to anything and everything that interests you,” she said. “There are so many interns that go to D.C. so there is a lot of competition. The worst thing you can do is apply to a couple of internships and expect to get your first choice. Also, don’t expect a paid internship.”

It was a major adjustment for Harrington to move to D.C., since she did not grow up in a large city. However, stepping out of her comfort zone, navigating the Metro and learning her way around the neighborhoods gave her confidence. She has also become more focused about a career path.

“My internship gave me a lot of specific skills, like policy planning and writing, that I don’t think I could have gotten elsewhere,” she said.

Rethemeyer concluded, “The expanded Semester in Washington Program is one of several important joint initiatives between the Rockefeller College and the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity that span instruction, research and policy outreach. The College looks forward to partnering with CEHC on additional programming as the new college continues to rapidly ramp up its programming.”

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