Al Drago / The New York Times

The Cornell in Washington program has successfully avoided COVID-19 spread so far, allowing students to spend an enriching semester in D.C.

February 10, 2021

A Hybrid Cornell in Washington Semester Starts With Few COVID Complications

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Through their full course loads and half-time internships, students have added surveillance testing, social distancing and mask wearing to their experiences at the Cornell in Washington program.

Learning from the fall semester precedent, increased precautions have allowed the program to resume, with zero COVID-19 cases since classes have begun this spring.

This semester, the program allows students to take classes hybrid or fully online, although most students have fully online internships. All students reside in the Wolpe Center and some take classes from their apartments.

Coordinators have sought to maintain the sense of community between the students, the faculty and the broader D.C. community despite the physical limitations.

“We emphasize thinking about D.C. broadly as a huge ecosystem of private sector and nonprofit organizations of all stripes,” said David Pelletier, Cornell in Washington director.

The COVID-19 testing mechanism is what has kept the program successful and the students able to be in Washington, according to Pelletier, but it requires a round-trip to Ithaca for their nose swabs. Similar to Ithaca-based students, CIW students receive biweekly tests sent by the College of Veterinary Medicine. 

According to Derron Borders, student academic and residential life coordinator, the program must follow Cornell’s pandemic guidelines as well as the District of Columbia’s protocols. Thus, program participants face different quarantine policies.

In the fall, students travelling from at-risk states had to quarantine for 14 days, but this spring semester the quarantine period has been shaved to 10 days 一 for students travelling from outside of Maryland or Virginia.

Despite Cornell in Washington’s altered form, students this semester have already found value with the program. 

“I feel really lucky to be here,” said Lia Sokol ’23, a government major and CIW participant. “I’m grateful for all the work CIW has put in to make this experience engaging in spite of the unique circumstances.”