Washington Semester, Leadership through Policy & Governance2018-10-23T11:41:01+00:00


Washington Semester, Leadership through Policy and Governance
Located in Old Town Alexandria, the Washington Semester, Leadership through Policy and Governance extended summer session program offers a unique 11-week immersion into work experience within the nation’s capital. Students will learn about and work on challenging public policy issues that shape communities locally and nationally while obtaining academic credit. Washington Semester Fellows will also attend seminars that enable them to understand their internship from a range of analytical perspectives.

The School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) Washington Semester Leadership through Policy and Governance is an 11‐week immersion program for Virginia Tech undergraduates based at VT’s Alexandria Center in Old Town Alexandria, VA. While this is not a policy program, it does seek to teach fellows to recognize the role policy has‐through the presence/absence of governance, authority and collaboration‐in decision making, no matter the field of work. To that end, fellows learn about and work on challenging public policy issues that shape cities locally and globally while earning credit. The program’s location in the National Capital Region (NCR) exposes fellows to governance, authority and collaboration in decision making and provides opportunities to hear from leaders and experts working in public, private and non‐profit organizations. As a means of synthesizing what they’re learning and their experiences, each fellow maintains a journal of weekly entries. The journal is purposed to provide a tool for fellows to track their grasp of policy through governance, authority and collaboration and its subsequent impact on the plans, programs, procedures they may be working on. Fellows are asked to raise questions resulting from their work, class, field study and professional development experiences and seek to answer them over the course of the program. Additionally, fellows learn to navigate the NCR by using the Metro Rail system to travel to their work and field study locations. All fellows are placed in non‐paid internships and participate in professional development sessions in the evenings. Other program offerings are based on the credit options.


The Washington Semester is a competitive program open to all undergraduate students, regardless of major, who have earned a minimum of 60 credits and are in good academic standing.


Apply online or download application forms and send to Krystal Wright, 110 Architecture Annex, Blacksburg, VA 24061. Please ask your references to provide letters by the due date (either by email to spia@vt.edu or by campus mail to mail code 0113).


The Washington Semester introduces participants to a variety of perspectives about how public policies are crafted, and to the diverse professionals who dedicate their careers to making them work. As such, the program provides a distinctive combination fo learning activities around questions of American democracy and governance.

The Washington Semester is divided into two interconnected themes aimed at encouraging students to develop a comprehensive set of knowledge about the American democracy and the development of the District of Columbia: the structure of the American democracy and the making of the Nation’s capital.

There are two program options for students to choose from:

• 6-Credit Program: Internship, professional development, evening lectures and selected field trips.

• 12-Credit Program: Internship, Friday class and seminar, professional development, evening lectures and all field trips.

12‐Credit Program Requirements:

Fellows work Monday‐Thursday in a 30‐hour week internship in a public, private or non‐profit organization. Friday morning is the policy class and Friday afternoon is the field study. Professional Development sessions, including training in career preparation and lectures with experts in various employment sectors, are held on Tuesday or Thursday evenings at the Alexandria campus.

Students enroll for three courses for the 1st summer session:

    • 3 hours – UAP 4624 – The Washington Semester: Seminar in Politics and Public Policy
    • 3 hours – UAP 4644 – The Washington Semester: Politics, Policy and Administration in a Democracy
    • 6 hours – SPIA 4964 – Field Study

The 12-hour program is an overload for 1st summer session. Each student must get permission from his/her Dean’s office to add the overload hours. The Washington Semester program is designed as an integrative whole and you must register for it in its entirety during the first summer session.

Credit and grading breakdown for the 12‐credit option:

➔ Internship: 6 credits, 50% of grade (including journal)
➔ Policy Seminar: 3 credits, 25% of grade (including final project)
➔ Field Study: 3 credits, 25% of grade (including professional development)

Honors Credit

Additionally, the 12‐credit program has an honors component for fellows in the Honors College. In addition to the above requirements, honors fellows can receive honors credit by completing the following capstone project:

Fellows may earn honors credit through the completion of a policy research project developed in consultation with course instructors and internship colleagues. Topic and format are flexible. Fellows may complete a 10‐page paper reviewing research relevant to a policy problem (for example, “Too much traffic” or “Too much lead in drinking water”); evaluate a policy proposal (for example, “What if we raise the speed limit to 100?); or unpack a policy indicator (for example, “How many people live in poverty? How is poverty measured?”). Students may also propose alternative formats, such as developing two op‐ed articles addressing policy problems or issues in current debate. Below are the three requirements. Due dates will be assigned at the beginning of the program.

➔ One page proposal
➔ Outline and list of sources
➔ Final paper

6‐Credit Program Requirements:

Fellows work Monday‐Thursday in a 30‐hour week internship in a public, private or non‐profit organization. They participate in the Congressional field study. Professional Development sessions, including training in career preparation and lectures with experts in various employment sectors, are held Tuesday or Thursday evenings at the Alexandria campus.

Students enroll for one course for the 1st summer session:

    • 6 hours – SPIA 4964 – Field Study

Credit breakdown for 6‐credit option:

➔ Internship: 6 credits, 50% of grade (including journal);

➔ Professional development, 20%;

➔ Final project, 30%

Honor Code

The Virginia Tech Honor Code applies to all student assignments. Student participation in seminar events requires careful preparation each week, sometimes in collaboration with other students. We encourage this mutual collaboration since we hope that you will learn from each other as well as from professional
peers in your internship offices. But all written submissions must be original and conform to all Virginia Tech Honor Code requirements.


All students are placed in an internship with a public or nonprofit organization that requires 30 hours of work per week. Placements are based on each student’s interests and professional goals. The internship experience provides a platform for linking seminar discussions and readings to broader issues of management and policy. The emphasis placed on incorporating both theory and practice sets the Virginia Tech Washington Semester program apart from other Washington internship programs.

All Washington Semester internships are unpaid internships. Participating agencies, nonprofits and companies must follow the Washington Semester program requirements for employers. The Washington Semester Internship Coordinator communicates these requirements to prospective employers prior to confirming the internship placement.

Specifically, participating employers complete a WS internship agreement form that specifies the internship supervisor, student work days/hours, and an internship job description and they also complete two evaluation forms (one midway through the program and one at the internship’s conclusion). All internships also must comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Examples of previous internship placements among many others:

  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • U.S. Senate
  • U.S. Information Agency
  • Government Accountability Office
  • HUD
  • EPA
  • Catholic Charities, USA
  • American Red Cross – International Division
  • Human Rights Watch
  • InterAction
  • City of Alexandria
  • County of Arlington
  • World Resources Institute

Fellows will work with the WS Internship Coordinator to initiate the internship placement process. Using the employment preference information from the fellow’s application, the Internship Coordinator and fellow will discuss possible work locations to pursue. Once identified, the Internship Coordinator will make contact with the employer to share the fellow’s resume. If interest is confirmed, the fellow will be directed to contact the employer to schedule an interview, which could be telephone and/or Skype. It is important for the fellow to maintain constant communication with the Internship Coordinator during this process. Once the fellow has been accepted by the employer, the Internship Coordinator will work with the employer to complete all necessary documents for the employer’s participation. Part of this documentation is a job description for the work that the fellow will be responsible for. Before the internship begins, both the fellow and employer sign off on the work to ensure there is agreement and mutual understanding of the work expectations. This agreement is kept on file for the duration of the internship. Simultaneously, the fellow should work with the employer to learn any employment details, such as completing background checks, badge requirements, etc, and follow instructions accordingly. This will make the start of your internship much smoother. To ensure a positive work experience, the Internship Coordinator conducts a mid‐point employer evaluation to learn how the fellow is performing and to identify any areas of improvement that may be needed. This evaluation is then discussed with the fellow in their mid‐point evaluation. A final evaluation employer evaluation is also conducted to obtain an overall assessment of the fellow and their work. This is also discussed with the fellow. Both employer evaluations are used as part of the internship grade. The journal completes the grade.

Important Notes on Internships:

The Employer Agreements entered into by the Washington Semester are usually for non-paid positions. However, compensated internships are permissible. Additionally, fellows must consult with the Director before modifying or ending an internship. Violation of these policies will result in disciplinary actions up to and including termination from the program.


The Field Study seeks to expand the experiential learning beyond the internship. On selected Friday afternoons, fellows will travel to sites that demonstrate the intersection of policy, governance and collaboration. Sites are chosen based on their topical influence in policy, depth of expertise in a policy area, whether it is a timely policy matter and to support the identified case study. Fellows will engage with experts working on real‐world issues and are encouraged to dialogue with them as a means of broadening their understanding and grasp of their place in the policy discourse and impact. Field Study is usually 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm on Fridays, but may be shorter/longer depending on site and location.  Grading will be based on fellow attendance and engagement in Field Study and professional
development sessions.


Upcoming Information Sessions

Dates are still to be determined.

Information Session Presentation

You need not attend an information session to apply.



Applications beginning: October 5, 2018.

Application deadline: January 31, 2019.

Orientation: April 8, 2019

Program dates: May 20 – August 3, 2019

Check-in: May 18 and 19, 2019

Welcome breakfast: May 20, 2019

Internships begin: May 21, 2019

1st class: May 31, 2019

Last class: August 2, 2019

Convocation: August 3, 2019


Apply online or download application forms and send to Krystal Wright, 110 Architecture Annex, Blacksburg, VA 24061. Please ask your references to provide letters by the due date (either by email to spia@vt.edu or by campus mail to mail code 0113).


Evaluation of coursework in the policy seminar will be based on five course elements – each constituting 20 percent of the final course grade:
1. Memo #1 (500‐750 words)
2. Memo #2 (500‐750 words)
Written work will be evaluated using four equally‐weighted criteria:
➔ Assignment – Does it respond to the question or assignment?
➔ Analysis – Does it present a clear thesis or narrative? Are its conclusions supported?
➔ Grounding – Does it make effective use of course materials to establish firm theoretical and conceptual grounding?”
➔ Readability – Is it concise and well‐organized? Is the language clear? Is it free of egregious typos, grammatical errors, and other distractions?
3. Policy Briefings ‐
Policy Briefings will be evaluated using four equally‐weighted criteria:
➔ Assignment ‐ Does the presentation respond to the assignment?
➔ Analysis ‐ Are elements of the presentation organized around a coherent thesis or narrative? Are problems and concepts clearly defined? Is the presentation informative? Is it interesting?
➔ Grounding ‐ Does the presentation make effective use of available policy evidence? Is policy evidence accurately described, clearly cited, and critically analyzed?
➔ Presentation ‐ Do oral and visual aspects of the presentation contribute to its clarity and effectiveness. Is the presentation free of common stylistic distractions?
For Honors Credit:
Submission of the following using the weighted criteria cited above.
➔ One page proposal of project
➔ Outline and list of sources
➔ Final paper


Below are rates for the 2016 program. New 2017 rates will be posted in the spring 2017 term.  Should anything change, students will be expected to honor the new rates.

Tuition & Fees: Summer 2016 rates are below. If rates increase, participants will be expected to pay the new rates.

(*In-state rate includes tuition, academic fee, technology fee; **Out-of-state rate includes the in-state rate plus out-of-state tuition and the facility & equipment fee).

The summer 2016 rates may be found here.

In-state* Out-of-state** Other Student Fees Program Fee WAAC Activity Fee
see Bursar’s website see Bursar’s website none if submit waiver form $100 – non-refundable N/A

Since the program is off campus, you will not need to pay university on-campus fees, but you will be charged for these fees. To have these fees waived, please work with your department to submit a comprehensive fee waiver form to the Bursar’s office.

Housing Costs: 2016 rates (may be subject to change). For those living in the Gallery Apartments in Alexandria, if any changes are made, students will be expected to honor the new rates.

Rates Per Person Two-Person Three-Person Four Person Parking Fee
For Summer (2 3/4 months) $2244.00 each $1968.00 each $1608.00 each $175.00
Deposit $500.00 each $500.00 each $500.00 each N/A


Travel Requirements
Most fellows will use the Metro train and bus system to travel to their internships, field study and professional development sessions. It is important for fellows to familiarize themselves with the Metro network to help determine travel times based on their housing location. Travel times are not an exemption from program requirements. Please visit www.wmata.com to learn about the network.

Many Washington Semester fellows reside in The Gallery, the Virginia Tech apartment complex located in Old Town Alexandria, adjacent to the Alexandria campus. Residence in this facility is managed by Virginia Tech Residence Life and follows the same conduct policies as Blacksburg residence halls. Housing is provided on a first‐come, first‐served basis. Information on room set‐up, sizes and fees can be found here.

Reasonable accommodations are available to fellows with a disability. Please contact the Services for Students with a Disability Office at www.ssd.vt.edu or via e‐mail at ssd@vt.edu. They can be reached at (540) 231‐3788 Voice / (540) 231‐0853 TTY / (540) 231‐3232 fax.


One of the tenets of the Washington Semester is providing fellows with tools, information and knowledge that can advance their studies and careers. To that end, the program brings in experts to engage with fellows in a number of areas, including career development, where fellows discuss and practice resume building, networking and interviewing. Additionally, experts in areas such as policy, intelligence/security, health, cybersecurity, economics, law, architecture, planning and environment are brought in to engage with fellows about these industries. Participants are encouraged to use this time to ask questions and explore the field being discussed through the experiences of the expert.

Relevance to STEM Majors

The Washington, D.C. region has a growing number of professional positions in the fields of science and technology. According to a recent report, “Five sectors, consisting of multiple occupations, will account for 72.3 percent of Northern Virginia’s net new jobs between 2010 and 2020.

One sector—professional, scientific and technical services—alone is projected to account for 41 percent of all net new jobs, a greater percentage than the next four largest sources of workforce demand combined.”(1)

(1) 1 Fuller, S. S. (2011). The Future of the Northern Virginia Economy. George Mason University. Accessed March 27, 2013. Chart source: EMSI and GMU Center for Regional Analysis. LQ = ratio of the local job share to its national sector.

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Andrea Morris
Washington Semester Director

Krystal Wright


1021 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

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