October 6, 2011

Cornell in Washington Turns 30 Years Old

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To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the Cornell in Washington program will host a special series of guest lecturers and a special celebration with both alumni and students in the program.

The Cornell in Washington program provides students with the opportunity to spend a semester living in Washington, D.C., and divide their time between taking classes taught by Cornell professors and participating in an internship. Since its inception in 1981, the program has brought more than 28,000 students to Washington and has grown substantially throughout the years.

“Originally, the program began with two to three professors in Washington, D.C., with students they grabbed off the streets in Ithaca, but now we are a program with its own residential and academic building that hosts 40 to 50 students,” said David Silbey, associate director of Cornell in Washington.

Sibley said he believes the program has been successful for so long because of the draw of the nation’s capital.

“Washington, D.C., is the capital of the U.S., and the capital of the world in a lot of ways,” he said. “The U.S. is the only remaining superpower, and [Washington] is where America runs its business. Cornell in Washington puts students as close to the political heart as possible.”

Throughout its 30-year history, the program has evolved, and students in Washington now develop a thesis and research paper that applies to their internship with the guidance of a resident advisor.

“Working with a resident advisor the entire semester was an enormous help and a unique learning experience,”  Richard Policastro ’09 stated in an email. “My advisor challenged me. When you develop a thesis on your own — and are forced to defend it on a week-by-week basis throughout the semester — you are not only more knowledgeable about your specific topic, but you also become more confident and vocal about the subject matter, and that leads to more interesting discussions.”

Many students said they enjoyed opportunities in Washington that will prepare them for future careers.

“I got to watch Justice [Stephen] Breyer and Justice [Antonin] Scalia debate each other on how to interpret the Constitution, I got to meet most of the Justices, and I witnessed some landmark cases firsthand,” George Yorgakaros ’11 stated in an email. “My most memorable moment by far was watching a personal hero of mine, former Justice John Paul Stevens, descend from the bench after his final hearing of oral argument — it was an incredibly moving scene.”

Original Author: Erica Boorstein