Brown students have had a front-row view of the turmoil on Capitol Hill over the last several weeks. The University’s new Brown in Washington program is giving seven students the opportunity to complete an internship and coursework in the nation’s capital, said Allen Hance, director of the program.
The students gain course credit for an internship, a reflection seminar, a public policy class and an optional independent study, Hance said. The program, based in the Swearer Center for Public Service, arose from conversations with students about off-campus learning opportunities, he said, adding that “peer institutions have credit-bearing programs in other cities.” The College Curriculum Council then reviewed and approved the proposal for the program, he said.
Internships for this year include placements with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, The Aspen Institute, the Atlantic Council and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Hance said.
A donor provided seed funding for the program, said Mathew Johnson, the director of the Swearer Center. The program is funded and paid for as if it were part of study abroad, he added.
The program requires an application and is offered only in the spring semester, though the Swearer Center is considering expanding it to include the fall, Hance said. “We are seeking to expand the program to 10 to 12 students” per semester, he added.
The Swearer Center tentatively plans to create programs in two to three domestic locations over the next five years, Johnson said. But “the core of (Swearer’s) existence … will always be in Providence,” he added.
More than 20 students met with the Swearer Center to express interest in the program for the first semester, Hance said. Given the compressed outreach and application timeline for its first year, Hance does not feel the Swearer Center has an accurate sense of the demand for the program.
“Of all the Swearer programs I’ve been a part of, this has gone the most smoothly,” said Kai Salem ’18, who currently works for Whitehouse in Washington. “It feels very different from anything else I’ve done at Swearer,” she added.
Working for Whitehouse is “a complete immersion experience,” Salem said. Other students in the program echoed her support and appreciation for the experience.
Salem identified a few areas that could be improved. Though program leaders suggested they would help in the search for internships, they left that task primarily to students, she said.
But Hance said that a program coordinator does help identify internship opportunities for students. The program takes advantage of the University’s “extensive alumni network in D.C. … which has been very helpful,” he added.
Brian Atwood, professor and senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, teaches PLCY 1821: “Bilateral and Multilateral Policy and Diplomacy” over video call with students at Brown, Salem said. But it’s often difficult to fully engage and participate in class via camera, she added.
In spite of the occasional difficulties, “I’m having so much fun” and “the classes are great,” Salem said.