College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Washington Internship Program Offers Unique Learning Experience

University of Mississippi students can gain practical experience in the nation’s capital through the Washington Internship Experience program developed by the Lott Leadership Institute, Department of Political Science and Division of Outreach.

The WIE integrates course work and internships for 20 students during fall, spring and summer terms.

“We believe that this unique opportunity to study and work in our nation’s capital will be a valuable experience for students,” said William R. Gottshall, executive director of the Lott Leadership Institute. “One of our goals at the institute is to prepare our students to assume positions of leadership. Serving in Washington, D.C., will broaden our students’ perception of our nation and the world.”

The political science department has offered informal internships in the past, but the WIE adds an interdisciplinary approach that includes history, criminal justice and other fields, said Richard Forgette, professor and chair of political science. It also takes the internship experience to the next level.

“It’s a way to get firsthand knowledge and a feel for how D.C. works,” Forgette said. “This can be a life-changing and career-changing experience. Then when the participants come back to school, they share that experience in class with other students, and that’s beneficial to everyone.”

Matt Minyard, a junior from Vicksburg majoring in political science, agreed.

“I applied because I really want to understand how government works,” Minyard said. “It has such enormous power to affect lives. I’m looking forward to being in the middle of it all.”

Students can apply the same university, state and federal aid available to them on campus to their terms in Washington, making the experience accessible to more students from a variety of backgrounds.

“Before now, many students didn’t have the time, opportunity or financial ability to participate in this kind of internship,” Forgette said. “But with the WIE, we’ve made it so that every student has the chance to go to Washington and get this experience.”

As part of the program, the students live together and attend classes while working 32 hours per week as interns in government, the media or a national institution.  The cornerstone of the program is a mandatory Washington Policy Process seminar, which meets once a week to hear guest speakers from various areas of leadership. Using the vast resources available in the area, students plan and execute a research project that culminates in a term paper incorporating knowledge achieved through the entirety of the program. Students also take an additional six-to-nine hours of academic credit.

WIE is open to junior, senior and graduate students. Second-year sophomores also may apply at their department chair’s discretion. The program is open to all majors.   William Gillis, a senior business major from Columbus, plans to intern in Washington during the spring semester.

“The Washington Internship Experience will help me understand how business and politics work together in developing and implementing public policy,” Gillis said. “What happens in Washington affects everyone. I want to be knowledgeable about the process.”

Participants pay regular on-campus tuition and fees, plus the cost of housing, transportation, books and supplies, and food. Applications to WIE for summer 2008 must be submitted on or before Feb. 28.

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