UCDC Gives Students Chance To Explore in Nation's Capital

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With almost daily protests and marches on Sproul Plaza, it is hard for students not to be politically involved at UC Berkeley.

But each semester selected students can take their passion for politics even further, namely to the nation's capitol, through the UC Berkeley Washington Program, a division of UCDC.

UCDC allows around 25 juniors and seniors of any major from each UC campus to explore a subject of their interest at the forefront of political activity in Washington each semester.

Students intern three to four days a week, usually for about 25 hours, while taking a research seminar and an elective to remain full-time Berkeley students.

All units count toward graduation and students can use their financial aid for the program.

"(UCDC participants) are Berkeley students just doing their work somewhere else," says program coordinator Kathy Slusser.

The program gives students the chance to work firsthand in an area of their choice. This spring, students are interning in places such as USA Today, CBS, the White House, the Justice Department and National Geographic.

The program is not all glitz and glamour, though.

Rani Sitty, who interned for the American Israel Affairs Committee in Fall 2000, says half the work of his internship was running errands and making copies.

But the other half of the time he attended meetings and did work that made him feel "big and important," Sitty says.

"It was really amazing to be around all the institutions that are shaping policy and today's politics, and actually taking part in it while lobbying and working side-by-side with these politicians," Sitty says.

Classes include seminars on political science, history, media and culture. A research seminar assists students in writing a research paper, which is a crucial part of the UCDC program.

"The research paper gives students the opportunity to see what professional life is like," says Washington program coordinator Scott Brickner. "It gives them a sense of what grad school is like where students get to control their own research."

Sitty says he enjoyed the research paper because it allowed him to go beyond the normal five-page paper. Most students' research papers usually run 30 to 50 pages, he says, although there is no page limit.

Instructors teach students methodology and how to do research while investigating a "topic they are passionate about and love," Slusser says.

Being in Washington gives students access to some of the best research tools in the world, Brickner says.

Over 200 students from all UC campuses participate in the five-year-old program every semester. It is popular because it provides an opportunity for students to see government in action while experiencing a different cultural aspect of the United States, says Jack Citrin, the center's faculty director.

UCDC is a great way for students to study in a small environment with close attention, which is often hard to find at a large university, Citrin says.

Students now live in a brand-new $30 million center located in downtown Washington. It opened in October.

"The location is great. It is a very spiffy building located very close to the White House in the center of everything," Slusser says.

Eight of the building's eleven stories house students in apartment-styled rooms. The remaining floors are devoted to lecture halls, offices and study lounges.

The program looks for students who can handle the its extreme demands of balancing school and work, Citrin says.

There is, however, "quite a bit of partying that goes on," he says. Students travel to East Coast cities such as Philadelphia and New York City on weekends. The center also provides cultural trips to war battlegrounds and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The young atmosphere of Washington makes it a very happening and fun place to be, Sitty says.

"Most of the people are young and fresh out of college. It is a very vibrant urban area," he says.

The Washington program is accepting applications for Fall 2002 until Wednesday. All students with a 3.0 grade point average who will be a junior or senior next semester are eligible to apply.

Information sessions for Spring 2003 will begin in the Fall, and applications will be due the third week of October.


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