Washington Semester Program Introduction

Hello everyone. My name is Maggie Hannick, and I am junior from St. Louis, Missouri, studying health studies through Holy Cross’ Center for Interdisciplinary Studies along with Mandarin Chinese on the prelaw track. This semester, I am participating in the Washington Semester Program with 18 other Holy Cross upper-class students. This program will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year and is a great opportunity for Holy Cross students, even those who are not studying political science. This semester’s group has students with majors in economics, international studies, languages, religious studies, and more! Because of these different interests, our group also has a wide variety of internship sites. In this program, students typically work Monday through Thursday 9am to 5pm in an internship that connects to their major. This year, we have students interning in person, hybrid, or remote everywhere from Congressional offices to lobbying firms to nonprofits to U.S. Departments. Additionally, students also write theses throughout their time in D.C. This research project is related to both the student’s internship and major, and each student works with a Holy Cross professor to write their 35-page thesis. Every Monday evening, Professor Burnep from the Holy Cross Political Science Department leads the group in a virtual thesis workshop, teaching us how to take on this research project and guiding us through the entire process from the beginning of picking a topic to the end of turning it in for final review. Lastly, the program also includes a seminar about American public policy taught by a professor from Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center for Government in D.C. On Tuesdays from 5:30-8pm, students gather in the Les Aspin Center in the Capitol Hill neighborhood to discuss and analyze public policy and the structures of the American government. The Washington Semester Program is a great program for any students interested in how their major and interests connect to government and politics.

This is a selfie of some of the D.C. participants commuting to the seminar.

Other aspects of the Washington Semester Program include living in apartments location in Arlington, Virginia, which are fully furnished with many appliances and in-unit laundry. There is a beautiful rooftop level with a full gym, communal kitchen, spa, lounge, co-working spaces, and balconies, and the lobby even has free coffee every morning. D.C. participants also receive free Metro passes so that we can travel around the city at no cost. Beyond our internship, seminar, and thesis, we have been able to explore D.C., including the National Mall and museums, and there is often festivals or events all over the city. Some of us have also used the Library of Congress to work on our seminar and thesis work and picked up library cards from there to do research. Additionally, we all have to cook for ourselves and have been learning how to work and live in a professional environment and big city, which has been really helpful in gaining new independent skills, especially as we prepare for adulthood that looms in our near future. Overall, D.C. has much to offer, and we are all working hard while also enjoying the program.

Specifically, I am working for a Senator through a hybrid internship. I go into the Capitol every other week and utilize Congressional technology remotely. My internship includes constituency services, in which I answer phone calls and emails from constituents; legislative projects, where I research bills in Congress; casework, helping constituents with a variety of needs; and scheduling, organizing and planning meetings and events for the Senator. I have also been able to connect much with my fellow interns as well as the Senator’s staff, and I have had many opportunities to connect with people on Capitol Hill, including a number of Holy Cross alumni. My internship keeps me busy, but I have learned so much about how to be helpful, productive, and successful and am grateful for this opportunity. The D.C. internships are by no means going on coffee or dry cleaning runs; they are action-oriented and part of the change making in our nation’s capital.

Additionally, for my thesis, I am planning on analyzing maternal and infant health in the United States and researching the racial disparities that are part of this. I have been meeting with my Holy Cross advisor weekly and reading much literature on my topic. I hope to interview people about their experiences to hear firsthand stories and better understand the healthcare system, and with this, I will create a research project on medical inequity through a sociological focus.

Overall, I have had a very full experience already in D.C. It has been a good learning experience, balancing the 9 to 5 work day, cooking for myself, living an apartment building, navigating the city, and meeting new people. I even have made Holy Cross connections by happenstance across this city, which has showed me the power of purple stretches far and wide. I look forward to sharing more adventures and stories from this semester program, and I cannot recommend it enough!