March 26, 2019
Carnegie Mellon Celebrates Five Years of Success and Student Exploration in Washington, D.C.
By Emily Baddock
For Carnegie Mellon University students interested in a future in public policy or public service, the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP) was built to provide comprehensive exploration directly to students.
Statistics show that a significant majority of students entering their undergraduate program will change majors and courses of study at least once. Along the way, students explore their professional and academic options though a variety of means, including summer internships, networking events and countless information sessions. As these opportunities are often pursued independently, there is increasing pressure on students to deftly navigate their options and successfully forge their own pathways.
Alternatively, the semester-long program, based out of the university’s Institute for Politics and Strategy consolidates the resources, guidance and real-world experiences that are critical to finding academic and professional footing. As a result, students leave Washington, D.C. with greater confidence in their ability to navigate professional environments, communicate and network across industries, and refine their academic and professional pursuits.
This spring, Carnegie Mellon celebrates five years of exploration in the nation’s capital through the CMU/WSP. Founded in 2014, students from across the university have participated, including computer scientists, violin players, engineers and more traditional “policy wonks.” With interdisciplinary efforts at the core of CMU’s academic experience, participation in CMU/WSP presents a prime opportunity for students to tangibly diversify their studies by earning a minor in politics and public policy.
The semester program experience includes a part-time internship, policy-focused coursework taught by CMU faculty and adjunct alumni faculty, consistent networking with DC-based CMU alumni and access to city-wide cultural events. While in Washington, students also have the chance to meet with thought-leaders through the weekly policy forum roundtable. Program favorites include sessions with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, and National Security Council Deputy Director Nadia Schadlow. Group trips to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, tapings of Meet the Press and access to guided Smithsonian museum tours round out the immersive experience.
As an extension of the CMU campus experience, courses are discussion-based and kept small, often focused on applying skills to group policy implementation projects. Internship opportunities are student-driven, allowing professional goals, current skills and areas of interest to guide individual searches. Working directly with program staff, each participant develops their application materials, explores various DC industries, and deliberately strengthens their professional development skills.
The slideshow below features five exceptional members of the CMU/WSP alumni network.
Satvika Neti, CMU 2016
Current Role: Digital Social Justice Advocate, Women and Girls Foundation
CMU/WSP Internship: Center for American Progress
Program Takeaway: “Participating in the Washington Semester Program was one of the first times that I truly understood the full value of existing in the liminal spaces between fields, disciplines and sectors. It helped me broaden my horizons of what was possible in the world and changed what I wanted to do with my life. It was such an impactful experience, both personally and professionally. I had so many experiences I never would have had without it, and know that I would be a completely different person if I hadn't done the program. I recommend it to everyone I meet now, and especially folks that aren't sure that DC or politics is for them — I'd argue that's exactly where we need you."
Victor Tavarez, DC 2018
Current Role: Associate, FSG Non-Profit Consulting Firm
CMU/WSP Internship: Joint appointment with Congressional House Committee on Small Business and the Office of Representative Nydia Velázquez
Program Takeaway: “My semester at CMU/WSP was a transformative experience that helped me gain a better understanding of the sectors that govern our society. While working in Congress, I witnessed the day-to-day development of federal policy while interacting with advocates of causes ranging from environmentalism to marijuana decriminalization. Additionally, through my coursework I received specialized attention from field experts and mentorship on how best to represent myself through my work. Lastly, living with and attending class with a set group of students working in different sectors in DC helped me learn from their work experiences as well.”
Dana Kim, DC 2016
Current Role: Center for Strategic & International Studies, Project Coordinator and Research Assistant (Satellite Imagery Analysis), Korea Chair and External Relations
CMU/WSP Internship: The Federal Judicial Center
Program Takeaway: “The lessons I learned during the CMU/WSP are invaluable and continue to help me progress in my career. Hard work always receives the recognition it deserves and never goes unnoticed. The relationships you make matter and it is important to continue to foster them — you never know how they will help you in the future. Be friendly, and always aim to meet at least two new people a week. Think outside the box and be vocal about your ideas because there is nothing you can lose, but much you can gain! Regardless of where you work or what your position is, your experience will only be as valuable as you make it. Most importantly, I learned that the internship you had in college, your first job after graduation, or even your major does not define the rest of your career. CMU/WSP allowed me to realize that it's okay to be curious and explore your options. I genuinely do not believe that I would be where I am now had I not seized the opportunity to participate in the program."
Emmett Eldred, DC 2017
Current Role: Youth Ministry Assistant, Church of the Brethren; Accepted to Yale Law School, Fall 2019
CMU/WSP Internship: Office of Representative Brendan Boyle (PA-13)
Program Takeaway: "The Washington Semester Program was my most formative semester at CMU for my career trajectory in politics, policy and advocacy. Yes, my internship in the office of Rep. Brendan Boyle was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But it went beyond that. The classes were unlike anything I had taken before: some taught or visited by prominent thought leaders, while others gave me and my cohort the chance to process and build upon our professional experiences in a safe, supportive and challenging setting. It was also inspiring to be in the place where so much happens. During the CMU/WSP, I was able to both witness and jump into that world by attending briefings and panels, networking with established professionals, and taking full advantage of the many, many opportunities for free food. I can safely say that without the CMU/WSP — the people met and friendships built, the issues experienced and explored, the knowledge and skills gained--I would never have decided to apply to law school to continue an advocacy career first set into motion during that memorable and irreplaceable semester in DC."
Jahque Bryan-Gooden, DC 2016
Current Role: Research and Policy Analyst, NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools
CMU/WSP Internship: Center for American Progress
Program Takeaway: “During CMU/WSP I learned the importance of determining what I value in a career and workplace, and to this very day that has helped me determine which positions are right for me and which are not. I believe that my internship and connecting with the guest speakers solidified my career goals to pursue a career in education policy. In fact, thanks to the Washington Semester Program I secured a summer internship with one of the guest speakers and was so certain of my interest in education policy that I pursued a master’s in Education Policy after graduating from CMU. Anyone can get an internship, but coupling a semester-long internship with coursework and networking opportunities is an experience that will teach you about work-life balance, professionalism and politics. While at CMU the stereotype was that CMU students are in a bubble. The CMU/WSP is a chance to burst that bubble."
Applications to participate in the fall 2019 semester in Washington, DC, are due April 1, 2019. Follow @CMUips #WashingtonWednesday for program highlights and to continue celebrating the five-year CMU/WSP legacy.