Roanoke students participate in Washington Semester

Four Maroons studied in the nation’s capital in spring 2010

When students decide they want to attend an institution of higher learning, often they believe they will be in that one location until their education is complete. Aside from studying abroad, often college education seems limited to certain geographic boundaries. Not at Roanoke.

Four students represented the College in the spring 2010 semester without stepping foot on campus. The Lutheran College Washington Semester program is a program where students intern four days a week at different placement sites and go on field trips every Wednesday to places of interest around the nation's capital. The program is residential and has sessions in fall, spring and summer. Students become immersed in the Washington, D.C. lifestyle while residing in condominiums, interning and earning academic credit. There are 13 Lutheran schools now involved in the consortium.

This past semester, a few Roanoke students participated in LCWS as a way to explore their interests and gain real world experiences. Although each student was participating in the same program, the semester was not similar for any of them. A different internship. Different roommates. Different mentors. The only thing that was the same for each of these students: They all got to spend a semester in Washington, D.C. through Roanoke College.

Jessica Randall '11 interned with the National Organization for Women as their political action committee intern. Randall worked with endorsing candidates running for federal office and communicating with them through e-mail and interviews. She said the highlights of her experience were the contacts she made and the Roe vs. Wade demonstration she attended on the first Friday of the program. Randall said this experience was shocking because she was one of the few people rallying for pro-choice causes in a group of many pro-life protestors.

"I will never forget the hostile feeling of that demonstration," Randall says. She enjoyed learning about the different life experiences of the adults at her internship and her professors, one whom was among the first female police officers in New York City. Randall says she doesn't think she wants a job in lobbying or policy-making but after speaking with a professor, she may want to pursue a position in the area of intelligence. Of LCWS, Randall says, "The program was a wonderful experience­-something Roanoke College should be proud to offer."

Patrick Dolan '11 was the conservation funding intern with The Wilderness Society's public policy department. He says there was no typical day, but that he would often attend house or senate interior appropriations hearings dealing with issues ranging from conservation funding to renewable energy development on public land. Along with attending hearings, Dolan was responsible for writing and updating fact sheets which lobbyists use to advocate The Wilderness Society's position.

Dolan says the highlight of his D.C. experience was being actively involved in the policy process. "Whether it was making outreach calls to house or senate offices, attending hearings and briefings or writing fact sheets to be used during lobby visits, I was able to see my work put to use to advocate our policy positions to Congress and the administration."

Dolan says he would recommend the Washington Semester program to anyone. Besides his internship, his favorite part of the experience was simply being in D.C., and he hopes to go back after he graduates from Roanoke and pursue a career in public policy. Dolan says he would like to eventually lobby on behalf of renewable energies such as solar and wind because they will play a significant role in our future.

Jessica Owens '11 interned with Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) at his office in the Russell Senate Office Building where she was responsible for preparing intelligence community research for the Senator as well as preparing press clips from all of his offices each day. Owens says she gained insight into the daily workings of a congressional office through her experience. Describing the highlight of her experience, Owen says, "I was able to gain the trust of the office and participate in events most interns wouldn't be able to. For example, I helped Senator Bond make a video press release from his hideaway in the Capitol building."

Though the experiences of each student were different in the program, each was valuable in its own light. The experience gained by these Maroons while spending a semester in Washington, D.C. proved invaluable.


About the Author

Megan Semmelman is a sociology major with a communications concentration from Pennsylvania. She is a student writer for Roanoke College Public Relations and is active on campus in several organizations, including Chi Omega and Relay for Life.

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