Weissman Center for Leadership announces new semester in Washington, D.C. program

Graphic by Natalie Kulak ’21

Graphic by Natalie Kulak ’21


This week, The Weissman Center for Leadership announced a pilot program in which students may spend a semester in Washington D.C. The program will begin fall 2018, and it is coordinated by Associate Director Janet Lansbury with Calvin Chen, Associate Professor of Politics, serving as the faculty director. 

“The program had been under discussion for quite some time, but this just seemed to be the right moment,” said Chen. 

The option was developed in connection with the Washington Internship Program initiated by Victoria Schuck, a Mount Holyoke Professor in 1949. The internship program provided students with an opportunity to work in Washington, D.C. as summer assistants to members of congress, senators and administrators of federal agencies. It was the first of its kind and served as a model for similar internships at other schools. 

After a period of dormancy, a group of alums who were Schuck student interns, including Sally Donner ’63 and Marcy Wilkov Waterman ’71, wanted to see the option revived at Mount Holyoke. Donner and Waterman have partially funded the pilot MHC Semester in D.C. program and are supporting it in the form of a challenge grant. 

Students will get the opportunity to spend the semester at the University of California Washington Center (UCDC) in Dupont Circle at the heart of the nation’s capital with other students from the universities of California, Notre Dame, Pennsylvania, Michigan and San Francisco. 

“This is a new way in which our students can make a real difference and be the kinds of trailblazers, leaders and game changers that we talk about so much. Here we have an opportunity for them to develop on multiple fronts,” said Chen. 

The program is designed for high achieving students with an interest in a future career in politics, policy, advocacy, nonprofit or government. It offers an array of unique courses that Chen said “will allow the participants to think more systematically about the democratic process.” Additionally, participants will be invited to talks by political and policy experts, such as members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and political reporters and columnists. 

“I think the program is a great opportunity for students interested in pursuing careers in D.C.,” said Katherine Meacham ’20. 

Students will also identify their own intensive government internship, with guidance from Chen and the Weissman Center staff. The hands on internship will be up to 32 work hours per week. As well as interning, students can earn 12 academic Mount Holyoke credits.  

“It’s not just the sorts of things you would learn about in a guidebook,” said Chen. “This is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you want to do. To figure out what kind of things you want to accomplish. It has the potential to be transformative.”

Applications for fall 2018 are due to the Weissman Center by Monday, February 26. Finalists will then be selected for interviews and the selected students will need to commit to the program by Friday, April 13. Applications for spring 2019 will be available by March 26 and will be due September 5, 2018. Spring 2019 applications will be open to students who will be second-semester juniors or first-semester seniors at the start of the program. Five students will be selected each semester.