Washington Semester Program helps Rider students establish themselves as future leaders

The program gives students the opportunity to study and work in the nation’s capital
Christopher Brooks
A good part of the time is spent in the district — such as with Justice Scalia at the Supreme Court — not the classroom.

A good part of the time is spent in the district — such as with Justice Scalia at the Supreme Court — not the classroom.

Beginning in 1947, the Washington Semester Program has helped college students gain a competitive edge in the working world. Since the fall semester of 2012, Rider University has paired with American University in Washington D.C. to give the Broncs the same opportunity.

The program, which takes place during either the fall or spring semesters, gives students in their second semester of their junior years the opportunity to study and work in the nation’s capital. Since the program launched three year ago, 11 Rider students have participated.

Dr. Michael Brogan, associate professor of political science at Rider, helped make the Washington Semester Program available to students and believes participating will give them a leg-up in the working world. “The cool thing about this program is that students get the chance to both learn by doing, and to establish themselves as future leaders,” Brogan explains. “Many of the alumni of this program are the people who are now leading our country. It’s a very strong positive network for students.”

During the semester, students study at American University and are given academic seminars in various topics such as foreign policy, law and justice or health care. These seminars are held in the district at places like the White House, Capitol Hill, or in one such case with Justice Scalia at the Supreme Court. At the same time, a good part of the time is spent in the district, not the classroom.

In addition to the 12 credits students are required to take, they are also responsible for an internship in the district. Since the program is open to all majors, students have a wide variety of options for individual focus. According to Brogan, Rider students who have participated in the program have interned at organizations such as the National Coalition for the Homeless, the Embassy of Afghanistan, ABC News and the D.C. Metro Court.

Andrea Suarez, a Rider student who too part in the program, had the opportunity to intern at the U.S. Department of Education, which she feels gave her invaluable experience that she otherwise would not have received. “I was introduced to exceptional professionals in every sector of the communications field ranging from journalists, public relation specialists, broadcasters, editors, foreign correspondents and public affairs specialists,” she says. “I made sure to network, secured a prestigious internship and I followed up after I left. My internship was mainly what made my experience in D.C. so enjoyable, but I wouldn't have had that opportunity if it wasn't for the Washington Semester program.”

For an additional three credits, students may also complete an independent research project, which Brogan strongly encourages to all Rider participants.

“You’re in D.C.; you have access to elite interviews. It’s insane what is available,” Brogan says. “Not only do you have the internship and the class, but you have something very tangible to give out to employers.”

For Rider student Claire Dalzon, the most valuable piece of the program was the networking opportunities. In one seminar, Dalzon met a media lawyer who helped her make a major decision to continue her education. “After her presentation, I immediately went up to her to schedule a lunch date,” Dalzon says. “She helped me make the decision of going to law school to become a media lawyer like herself. We still keep in touch and she has introduced me to many people in the field as well as continuing to offer me career advice.”

While Brogan admits that the program carries a heavy workload, he hopes to encourage more students to participate in the Washington Semester Program. “It is a great opportunity for Rider students not only to get experience, but to get really unique experience. It gives them a unique perspective and it really gives value when they come back to Rider.”