Students Witness Washington Politics, Government in Person

COLUMBUS, Ga. - While many of their peers relaxed through the final week of a holiday break from classes, a group of Columbus State University students engaged and networked with leaders at the nation’s capital.

Led by Associate Professor of Political Science Greg Domin, eight students participated in a Jan. 3-8 academic seminar, “Congress and the Obama Presidency,” hosted by the Washington Center on Internships and Academic Seminars as part of its Inside Washington series.

“The seminar presented a great opportunity to experience firsthand Washington, D.C., politics and government in action,” said Domin, chair of the political science department at CSU.

CSU students (last two rows) listen to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a C-SPAN televised speech. The program included lectures by nationally respected academics and major speaker events. The group attended Adm. Mike Mullen’s Jan. 7 speech about U.S. strategy in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East; the recent events in Yemen; and what U.S. military forces might look like after the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined some of the challenges facing the military, including the Afghanistan “extended surge” and withdrawing from Iraq. The event, televised live by C-Span, also featured remarks by former Deputy National Security Adviser for Counterterrorism Juan Zarate and former U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-Okla.).

The students also engaged in site visits to governmental organizations, think tanks, embassies and congressional offices. For example, the CSU group met with Alex Sheff, an aide to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. to discuss the process of legislating health care reform. They also discussed the issue with perspective from the Republican side with Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ aide, Charlie Harman.

The seminar provided “a very rewarding opportunity to delve into the forces in play in our government,” said political science major Amber Dees, one of the participating CSU students. I have a richer and fuller understanding now of the concepts I have been learning in classes over the past two years,” she said.

Dees’ classmate, political science major, Christian Torijano, concurred, saying he gained “a behind the scenes understanding of how business is actually conducted in Washington… The lectures here in Washington are given by some of the best academic minds in the field of political science, and the guest speakers are true Washington insiders with eye-opening insight into the issues at hand.”

Torijano and Dees’ fellow participants from CSU were political science majors Ashley Kendricks, James Cochran IV and Kristopher Farrar; management information systems major Rose Kennedy; MPA candidate Robb Nichols; and history education major Vanessa Lewis.

“For a non-political science major, this has been a very significant and highly valuable experience for me,” Lewis said. “It’s an honor to listen to the speakers who are so intelligent and informed about today's politics and participate in the site visits in order to gain a first-hand account of Washington and how it works.”