Commentary: Learning to Swim Like a Scholar
Smith Interns Go to Washington
By Jan McCoy Ebbets
When she was a sophomore, Davy Kong
'02 imagined that in her junior year she would be studying at
the London School of Economics. She thought she wanted a study-abroad
experience. But when she discovered the Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington
Program, she changed
The selective Picker internship program
offers Smith juniors and seniors a rare opportunity to live and
work in Washington, D.C., for seven months while earning academic
credit. It is an opportunity that is hard to come by, and for
Kong, who is not only a government major but also interested
in a law career and who harbors aspirations to run for public
office one day, it was not to be ignored. "My interest in
politics naturally attracted me to D.C. because of the presidential
election year," she notes.
One of 12 Smith women now working in
Washington as Picker interns, Kong is with ABC's Nightline as
a broadcast jour-
Other interns are working with Amnesty International, the Department of Justice, Sea Web, the White House, and in the congressional offices of Senator John Kerry and Congresswoman Tammy Bald- win. In past years, interns have been placed in other such prominent offices as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Jobs with Justice, and the National Organization for Women.
The program not only provides a $2,000 stipend but also assists students in arranging housing with the help of an alumnae coordinator, Jane Riley Jacobsen '90. A former Picker herself, Jacobsen moved to Washington after her Smith graduation and worked on Capitol Hill before joining the National Endowment for Democracy.
There is no better way to live and work in Washington, D.C., than as a student with the "quietly popular" Picker program, says Greg White, associate professor of government and program director. Rather than a brief, two- to three-month internship during the summer, the seven-month Picker program "provides the opportunity to work at one, even two, internships. Students stay on past the summer and can become well-integrated into the offices where they work and take on much greater responsibilities."
"It's nice to be in Washington for an extended period," says Annie Russo '01, who was a Picker student one year ago and worked in the Capitol Hill office of Congresswoman Caroline Maloney, D-New York. Russo is now the Picker student coordinator on campus. "June and July are busy months. August is a down time. Come September, things really pick up again and Capitol Hill gets very busy."
Jennifer Vuona '02 interned this July and August in Senator John Kerry's Capitol Hill office and in September began a second internship in the White House. "I feel that dividing my time into two different internships gave me a unique perspective on Washington," she says.
Vuona, a government major who is considering law school after graduation and a career as a lobbyist, predicts that "the Picker program will prove to be one of my best growing experiences. I am learning to live on my own, which is quite different from being at Smith."
While some students love the excitement of interning on Capitol Hill, other Picker students opt for a practical Washington experience away from the hubbub of partisan politics. Nevertheless, they remain immersed in the daily business of public policy making, whether it's in a government agency or a nongovernmental organization.
Ellen Davis '02 is working at the offices of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). From the very start, she was hand-ed a global project involving some 150 countries and an international treaty, negotiated by the United Nations, to ban the use of dangerous chemicals-including PCBs, dioxins and DDT. Her job is to work with PSR's environment and health program to prepare for a global conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, this December. There, delegates from 150 countries and 125 nongovernmental worldwide organizations (NGOs) will meet and, it is hoped, agree to sign the treaty.
"I've been working on scheduling our NGOs for a two-day workshop session before the treaty negotiations begin; the workshop will focus on teaching members of these groups how to lobby and speak at the negotiations," Davis said in the fourth week of her Picker internship.
Depending on the availability of PSR funding, Davis, who is majoring in government with a minor in environmental science, could herself travel to South Africa to attend the December conference. "I'm hoping for that opportunity," she says.
The Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program, while competitive, is open to first-semester Smith juniors and seniors with backgrounds in the social sciences. The program is also open to all Ada Com-stock Scholars and international students as well as those with financial aid packages.
The Picker internship program provides students with an opportunity to study processes by which public policy is made and implemented at the national level. Participants earn 14 hours of academic credit for successful completion of the program. While in Washington, Picker interns take a class led by Adjunct Professor J. P. Robert Hauck, associate executive director of the American Political Science Association, and write an independent research paper dealing with an aspect of government policy.
Professor Greg White meets with students
several times in Washington during the semester and oversees
each student as she conducts her research project and writes
a final paper.
Applications for the 2001 Picker Semester-in-Washington Program are being accepted until November 1. For more information, visit the Web site at www.smith.edu/gov/jeanpicker.html or contact Greg White at gwhite@email .smith.edu.
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