UC’s new Washington, D.C. center opens to eager students, staff

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs



The new UC Washington Center houses faculty, staff and students in the nation’s capital.

10 October 2001 | Undergraduates studying Washington politics, civil rights, health care and government have a ringside seat in the nation’s capital, just blocks from the seat of democracy.

UC’s new Washington Center, which opened its doors in early October, will serve as a residence for about 250 UC students, graduate student assistants and faculty from all nine campuses and as the headquarters for UC’s academic programs in Washington, D.C.

The new multi-purpose facility also houses UC’s Office of Federal Governmental Relations and other administrative and multi-campus research units of the university.

The Washington Center is a competitive, interdisciplinary program that supports students from all nine campuses in an academic program in Washington, D.C. Berkeley selects 25 advanced students per semester to go to Washington, said Jack Citrin, professor of political science and the campus’s Washington Center faculty director. Students divide their time between an internship and coursework in a research seminar and elective course.

“The Washington Center program really gives students a taste of life in the nation’s capital,” said Kathy Slusser, Berkeley’s program coordinator. “They gain a lot of insight into their career paths, and they are able to network with people in the professions they are pursuing.”

Students have a unique opportunity to witness Washington politics in the making and to work in some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions.

Among the student internships to date are positions in the departments of State, Justice and Education, the National Archives, the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Smithsonian and CBS News, Citrin said. A number of program alumni have stayed on in Washington to continue working at these institutions.

The experience can be “life changing,” said Scott Brickner, on-site director of the UC Berkeley program in the nation’s capital.

“We run the seminar in such a fashion that it’s one of the few times students have control over what they’re studying,” he said. “The real work for students in this semester-long program is going out and doing their own research. It serves as a precursor to graduate school.”

Gregory Wesley, a fall 2000 intern in the White House Communications Office, is a testament to the program’s benefits.

“The Washington Center program allowed me to be a White House insider for a few months during the final days of the Clinton administration, which was a dream come true for me,” Wesley said. “I still can’t believe that I had free run of the West Wing and that I was watching the 2000 election story unfold from the White House Communications Office.”

Academically, professionally and socially, it was “a great semester,” he said. “The only complaint I have is that it went by too fast.”

The program’s new, 11-story center, located at Scott Circle, will house close to 250 students and several graduate student assistants in residential suites on site. Studio and one-bedroom apartments are also available for visiting faculty who choose to stay at the center.

The facility features teaching rooms, faculty and staff offices, an auditorium and a distance-learning lab.

Brickner said the new center is expected to increase UC’s visibility in Washington, D.C., as well as attract more students and faculty to the program.

Applicants waiting to find out if they have been admitted to the spring 2002 semester haven't lost much sleep over the thought of living in the nation's capital as the international war on terrorism unfolds. One of them, Margaret Ford, is a senior geography major who wants to get her hands on the world's largest collection of late 19th century, hand-drawn panoramic maps of the United States, which is housed at the Library of Congress.

“I have a great interest in cartography, and in a particular type of map called a ‘birds-eye’ map, which is a hand-drawn panoramic map,” said Ford, who is applying for an internship at the National Geographic Society. “I want to research the map makers, who they were and how they made these maps.”

Nick Papas, a senior political science major, would rather participate in the day-to-day politics of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or the Democratic National Committee.

“I’d like to make some contribution to putting the Democrats back in power,” he said. “Washington, D.C. is the place to be.”


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