CMU redevelops semester in D.C.

Credit: Annette Ko/Art Editor Credit: Annette Ko/Art Editor

Katie Stoebe, the executive director of the Carnegie Mellon Center for International Relations and Politics, and Emily Half, an undergraduate academic adviser in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, recently announced that the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMUWSP) is being restructured. The new program will be launched in January 2014, meaning that CMUWSP will not be offered during the upcoming fall 2013 semester.

The CMUWSP currently sends students to Georgetown University for academic study while they participate in an internship; Carnegie Mellon supplements their experience with extracurricular events and internship search support. In the new program, however, Carnegie Mellon will no longer be partnered with Georgetown. Instead, Carnegie Mellon will be part of a consortium of schools partnered with the University of California Washington Center (UCDC). These universities include the University of Notre Dame, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and Washington University in St. Louis. Carnegie Mellon students will take classes in the UCDC building — only five blocks from the White House. Courses will be taught by a combination of Carnegie Mellon and UCDC faculty, and with the new program, there will be more core and elective course options.

“Don’t get us wrong, our students have had good experiences at Georgetown, but we’re really excited about the opportunity to grow Carnegie Mellon’s presence in Washington and develop our own program there,” Half said.

The internship aspect of the CMUWSP will be retained; students will still complete an internship of their choosing while studying in Washington, D.C. Although students will apply and interview for internships on their own, affording them a real-world experience, a full-time adviser based in Washington, D.C. will be available to help guide their search. Additionally, the Carnegie Mellon Center for International Relations and Politics has an extensive database of descriptions and deadlines for over 360 internships, the majority of which are in Washington, D.C.

In the past, Carnegie Mellon students have completed internships for government organizations, nonprofit organizations, lobbying firms, and think tanks. Students interested in the program are encouraged to research internships well in advance, as deadlines can approach earlier than expected, especially for government organizations such as the State Department and the White House.

In the spring 2014 semester, CMUWSP students will live in Washington Intern Student Housing (WISH).

Carnegie Mellon students will live together in a WISH townhouse, and will be neighbors to students from other schools living in the WISH community.
In the future, Carnegie Mellon is planning for students to live in UCDC housing, which mainly includes two-bedroom, four-person apartments with kitchens and living rooms.

Although it seems like restructuring the program was an abrupt decision, Stoebe said that changes to the CMUWSP have been in discussion for many years. “Things just kind of picked up in the fall semester and moved a lot faster than we had anticipated. We had wanted to do this program for the longest time and it just seemed like everything started falling into place,” Stoebe explained.

The CMUWSP will not be offered in the fall 2013 semester, because the program managers want to dedicate all of their time and resources to launching the program successfully and problem free in spring 2014. Although the CMUWSP website still says they are accepting applications for the fall 2013 program, emails were sent to Carnegie Mellon academic advisers asking them to inform students of the changes. Additionally, three information sessions regarding the new CMUWSP were held in February.

After attending a CMUWSP information session, sophomore psychology and philosophy double major Lavender Yi said, “It was unexpected that the Washington Semester Program is undergoing reconstruction. I had absolutely no idea until I went to one of the information sessions a few weeks ago. I really do like the new options for the spring semester of 2014. However, I do wish they were still partnered with Georgetown, because I heard about wonderful experiences and I wish I could have had those experiences as well. I expect a lot of great things to happen in the spring though, and I can’t wait to hear more about the program ... in the fall.”

Stoebe and Half are hoping to send 10–12 undergraduate students each semester to Washington, D.C. There are currently 11 students participating in the CMUWSP spring 2013 program. The majority of students who apply to the program are selected, but as Half said, “It’s not that it’s not a selective program, but I think that it’s self-selecting. We want students to have this opportunity, so unless we think there’s an academic reason or some other reason why you shouldn’t be in D.C., we want you to go.”

Applicants are advised to have at least a 3.0 QPA and to plan their semester schedules ahead of time. “Academics need to come first. You need to be a strong student in Pittsburgh to be a strong student at Carnegie Mellon in D.C.,” Half said.