Program gives students experience in the capital

Azka Khan

Shaping politics is not something many college students imagine themselves doing; however, Kent State’s Washington Program in National Issues gives them the opportunity to do just that.

The political science department offers the program every spring to all students.

“We allow all majors but make sure that students have taken at least two political science courses,” Washington Program Director Richard Robyn said. “One of these two classes can be an intro class, and the student must also have a 2.7 GPA.”

The process of being involved in the program begins about a year before a student actually goes. Interested students fill out an application that can be found in the political science office, then talk to Robyn about where they would like to work during the semester.

In previous semesters, students have worked as interns with Congress, the Republican and Democratic National Committees, the Pentagon and National Public Radio.

“I look at this program as a first step into their career,” Robyn said. “Sometimes we just pick off the list, and sometimes the student already has a place in mind, and that’s fine too.”

Robyn said it is not unusual for students participating in the program to receive job offers for after graduation.

“I was offered a job for after I graduate in December,” said Justin Wolf, senior international relations major. “My supervisor also said that he could put me in contact with the right admissions people at Syracuse should I decide to complete my master’s before entering the work force.”

Students can earn up to seven credit hours and work only three days a week.

The academic aspect of the semester occurs in the remaining two days of the week when students attend briefings with members of Congress, lobbyists, journalists and well-known national figures.

These briefings are treated like classes, and students are given credit for them. Participants are also required to write papers and journals for the academic section of the program.

During the Spring 2006 Washington trip, some briefings were with Representative Tim Ryan, journalist Sam Donaldson, the CIA and World Bank.

The whole trip allows students to earn 15 to 17 upper-division credit hours.

“It’s a big part of Kent State to allow students to participate in this program and not have them delay graduation,” Robyn said. “Most universities don’t do this.”

Robyn said as much as he wants the participants to gain work experience, he also wants them to explore the city. He said students will get the opportunity to experience the city, meet people and network in an informal setting.

Participants in the program pay regular Kent State tuition for the semester, but housing is not included. Housing is assigned when students are selected, but students must make arrangements to pay for the housing, which costs about $3,500 for the semester.

“The housing was great, and the rooms were all fully furnished,” Wolf said. “It was like living in a hotel, not an apartment, and the neighborhood we were in was gorgeous.”

Robyn said the students must cover other expenses, such as food, shopping and entertainment.

“The greatest part of the trip was the real world experiences we gained,” Wolf said. “It’s one thing to watch the news and discuss it in class or with a few friends and a completely different experience to be living, breathing and occasionally helping to shape those politics.”

The deadline for the application for this spring’s Washington trip is Oct. 13. The applications are available in Bowman Hall Room 302. For more information, visit

Contact Colleges of Arts and Sciences reporter Azka Khan at [email protected].


• Deadline for the application for this spring’s Washington trip is Oct. 13.

• The applications are available in Bowman Hall, Room 302.

• For more information, visit