Dr. David Holian has been opening the eyes of UNCG Political Science undergraduates to the career possibilities in Washington, DC, since 2005.
His UNCG PSC 300 class, which is offered every other summer, is called the “Washington Summer Study Session.” After meeting in Greensboro during the initial week of the first summer session, students spend three weeks in the nation’s capital, live in dorms on the Catholic University of America campus, travel throughout the DC metro area to meet with invited course participants, and take advantage of all that Washington has to offer, from museums to monuments to a wide variety of cultural opportunities.
Students accepted into the program receive funding to pay for their stay at Catholic from a variety of sources, including Undergraduate Research, the Annie Moring Alexander Scholarship Fund, the Louise Alexander Scholarship Fund, and the Department of Political Science.
The class comprises both academic and career objectives, Holian says.
On the academic side, students deepen their knowledge of national politics and policy. In classes on the UNCG campus, Holian says, students learn political science theory. In the nation’s capital, they study the real deal: politics and policy in practice. “We get to test our theories in Washington. Students get to ask the practitioners their views of how the world works.”
For example, instead of discussing the structure and consequences of the congressional budget process based on reading about it in a textbook, students in Washington get to ask questions of the staff director of the House Appropriations Committee.
Students have no classroom and don’t need one – every day brings something different. “Lots of Metro trips,” Holian says, as the class takes the subway to meet members of Congress in their offices or lobbyists in their K Street conference rooms.
Students also meet with members of the executive branch, journalists, campaign strategists, think tank officials, and congressional staffers. One of the first things students notice about staffers is that many are only a few years older than they are.
On the career side, students make important contacts by networking with class speakers and UNCG alumni working in Washington, many of whom took Holian’s class in past years.
“They see that a lot of people get to where they are by working hard, getting breaks, and being intensely interested in the political process.”
Of the approximately 85 students who have taken Holian’s summer course so far, about 20 students have gone on to complete internships, many with members of Congress. About 10 have attended Washington-area graduate schools or gotten jobs working with or in government. One former student currently works for the Department of Homeland Security. Another works for the FBI. A student who took the class in 2013 recently completed an internship with the Congressional Black Caucus and then landed a job in Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s Washington office. Butterfield represents North Carolina’s First Congressional District.
“I get a lot of satisfaction out of the fact that a number of students have gone on to take advantage of opportunities that they might not have been introduced to without taking the class,” Holian said.
Holian got his BA in journalism at Northwestern University and interned as a reporter with the Lexington Herald-Leader. He wrote about local politics and government and, instead of becoming a journalist, decided to pursue his doctorate in political science, which he received from Indiana University.
He’s been making a difference in UNCG students’ lives and future careers since 2000.
By Mike Harris