Allegheny College Students Explore Law and Public Policy Inside the Beltway During D.C. Seminar Trip
A winter break seminar in Washington, D.C., took a dozen Allegheny College students into some of the nation’s most important institutions of government — and gave them an insider’s look at careers in law and public policy.
The College’s Law & Policy Program sponsored the nine-day seminar, “Institutions and Interests that Shape the Policy Process,” from Jan. 5 to 14. The experience was designed to help students explore and link their academic interests, passion for civic engagement, and post-graduation goals. Through funding from the Endeavor Foundation, the seminar was free to students, outside of their personal expenses.
While inside the Beltway, students learned from top policymaking experts during rigorous academic seminars on critical elements of the policy process, observed oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court, and toured key sites including the White House, the Capitol, and the Library of Congress.
Junior Will Lowthert said the seminar was “uniquely Allegheny,” combining readings, real-world activities, and insights from professionals. Together, those experiences “allowed students to better comprehend how institutions work to develop public policy,” said Lowthert, a political science major with minors in economics and community and justice studies.
Students also expanded their perspectives by connecting with Allegheny alumni working in legislative affairs, law, communications, and other fields. Students benefited from networking sessions with Allegheny graduates and participated in externships — short-term, hands-on learning experiences — at alumni workplaces.
“They were prepared, attentive, and unafraid to ask questions, which were universally thoughtful,” veteran public policy attorney Fred Eames ’86 said of his discussions with seminar students.
Claudia Huber, a junior majoring in political science and minoring in environmental writing, said conversations with alumni “lit a spark” in her. “Going on a trip like this truly solidified my interests and passions,” said Huber, who plans to attend law school and then work in government.
For other students, the trip opened doors to new possibilities. Along with learning about new career fields from alumni, students explored law and other graduate schools in the D.C. area.
Second-year student Maya Francisco said the seminar helped her realize that she wants to pursue employment or a public service position in AmeriCorps before attending law school. “The D.C. trip allowed me to discover what I want and don’t want for the future while in a supportive environment,” said Francisco, a community and justice studies major and Spanish minor.
The seminar also personalized the experiences of those working for the public good in the nation’s capital, said junior Joe Leszczynski, a political science and community and justice studies double major.
“Washington, D.C., to me, is no longer just a place that is written about in countless articles or presented to me by pundits on television,” he said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to have been in our nation’s capital for an extended period of time and learn about the American government in a way that textbooks could never provide.”
First-year student Lexi Adams echoed that sentiment of appreciation.
“It is a breath of fresh air knowing that my Allegheny College degree has the power to take me places I didn’t even consider originally and that all I have to do is take advantage of opportunities like these and continue to explore my interests,” she said.
During their free time, students visited museums and cultural institutions, including the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery.
Together, the many aspects of the trip encouraged students to build connections with not only new mentors, but also each other.
“I hadn’t met most of the students prior to the trip and came out with a group of 11 new close friends, who I am incredibly grateful for,” junior Olivia Brophy said. “These friendships will be carried out through my remaining years at Allegheny College and beyond that.”
Accompanying students on the trip were Brian Harward, former director of the Law & Policy Program and professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, Patrick Jackson, senior assistant dean for fellowship advising and pre-law advising, Audrey Smith from Institutional Advancement, and Autumn Parker and Brian Collingwood, members of the Career Education staff.