The Michigan in Washington program, through which University students temporarily trade life in Ann Arbor to work in the nation’s capital, will turn a decade old this week. Since 2005, the program has given 45 to 50 students per semester the opportunity to spend either the fall or winter in Washington, D.C.
“The MIW program was created to provide students with an opportunity to live, work and study in Washington, D.C.,” said Edie Goldenberg, a professor of public policy and political science who was the founding director of the MIW program. “The major idea is for undergraduates from any major at UM to use what they learn in their internships and what they learn in class to complement each other in meaningful ways.”
On Friday, the program will hold a banquet at the National Press Club in D.C. featuring pre-recorded speeches from University President Mark Schlissel, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, as well as a live stream speech from LSA Dean Andrew Martin. Rep. David Trott (R–Birmingham) will keynote the celebration.
The program experience begins before students leave campus since they are required to take a preparatory course the semester before leaving for the capital. Once in Washington, participating students are paired with a University alumni mentor and are required to find an internship and write a research paper, in addition to taking classes — a feat Goldenberg says isn’t easy.
“MIW is academically rigorous,” Goldenberg said. “Every student completes 12-15 UM credits, nine of which are required and the others elective. The courses are designed to take advantage of being in D.C. rather than merely to duplicate what’s available on campus.”
Though more than half of the 2013-2014 class was comprised of political science majors, the program accepts students from all fields of study, and students arrange to get credit for their major through their internship and research paper.
Students are also encouraged to find an internship that best suits their interests. Members of last year’s class interned at organizations such as congressional offices, the U.S. Department of State, the Sierra Club, NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Mexican Embassy and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
After 10 years of the program, the alumni base has amassed 460 individuals in all lines of work around the world. For many, their experience in Washington has opened up doors to future career options.
“All of our alums are notable,” Goldenberg said. “MIW alums have won writing prizes for their research papers. Two have been chosen as commencement speakers. Roughly 40 have graduated and been employed in the Washington, D.C. area. Many others have been admitted to graduate schools of their choice. Several have published their work and others have started charitable efforts.”
Students currently studying in D.C. already feeling the benefits of the program. LSA senior Whitney Swart, who is interning at an organization that provides legal and social services to immigrants, said the opportunity has given her a better handle on her future goals.
“In the Michigan in Washington Program, I have had the opportunity to make important connections, pursue my passions and fall in love with a new city,” Swart said. “It wasn’t until I lived and worked in D.C. that I truly understood my goals and found myself.”
LSA junior Evan Viau, an intern for the Truman National Security Project, said his time in D.C. has helped him find his calling.
“My time in MIW has been instrumental in refining my post-graduate career goals and allowing me to grow both intellectually and professionally,” he said. “I have had substantive opportunities to work with experts in my issue areas to research, develop, and advocate for national security policies that address the new challenges of the 21st century; an opportunity I probably wouldn’t have had if I didn’t spend a semester in the District through this program.”
Viau said the work isn’t easy, either.
“It’s certainly a challenging environment— being surrounded by some of the best and brightest around the country— but it’s comforting to see the impact of my hard work daily,” he said. “I applied to the program to find purpose and support, and I’ve definitely found it.”