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The Washington Semester Program

The Washington Semester Program is a highly competitive, semester-long program offered in Washington, D.C., through Holy Cross. The program welcomes students from all disciplines to connect their academic learning with direct, professional experience in their major fields, providing them with dynamic opportunities for intellectual, personal and professional growth and development.

Through the Washington Semester Program, which was founded in 1971, students have the opportunity to work with national leaders, engage in independent research, and live in the stimulating environment of Washington, D.C. A unique multidisciplinary opportunity, the program is both rigorously academic and fully immersive, designed for students across the arts, humanities, and sciences. 

The program is made up of three major, integrated components: a weekly seminar that provides a forum for critical analysis of public policy issues; an internship chosen from a vast range of fields; and independent research, which culminates in a substantial academic thesis project. The research is conducted under the guidance of a faculty advisor and serves to greatly enhance the internship experience by encouraging students to analyze, in depth, issues directly related to their work. Students receive a full semester’s academic credit for the program. 

Through this selective program, third-year or fourth-year students spend their semester in Washington, D.C., bringing together past and current academic study with practical experience. They develop a better understanding of the political process and the formulation of public policy, through direct experience with prominent organizations in a range of fields, including politics, business, media, legal, service, medical, and art. Through their professional placements — which have included internships at ABC News, the Department of Education, U.S. Congress, the Smithsonian, and the White House — in conjunction with the rich academic program offered in Washington, D.C., Holy Cross students return to campus as independent learners and researchers, with a host of leadership and professional skills.



Program Summary

While this is a multi-disciplinary program the three major components of the Program are directly related to each other and, in most cases, clearly integrated. The weekly seminar provides a forum for critical analysis of public policy issues drawing on students' internship experience and research. The independent research serves to greatly enhance the internship experience by encouraging students to analyze, in depth, issues directly related to their work.


Each student is required to spend four days per week working in a Washington based agency or office. Over the past twenty five years the College has established an extensive and varied list of internship placements for our students throughout Washington. Through consistent oversight and evaluation of all of our internship sites we have been able to insure that students are offered a substantive learning experience at their chosen placements. As a result of the College's direct involvement with internship sites, the rigorous academic demands of the Program and the excellent track record of former Holy Cross interns our students are usually in great demand. Since our program is multi-disciplinary in nature our placement opportunities cover a wide range of publc, private and independent sector organizations concerned with politics, health issues, government, social service, law, communications, education, business, etc. These positions require of the student a great deal of initiative and responsibility.


In conjunction with the internship each student is required to undertake a major independent research project culminating in a 40-50 page thesis. The thesis topic is selected by the student, in consultation with a Holy Cross faculty member who directs the research, early in the term followed by a series of deadlines leading to completion of the project. The subject of the research is, if practicable, both closely related to the student's internship and their major discipline. At the end of the term each student is required to return to the College for a discussion of their research in an oral examination. Students are expected to make good use of the resources of their agency and Washington in general to produce a paper which reflects, in some way, the Washington experience.


The seminar, which has no prerequisites, meets one evening a week and deals with issues related to the formulation of public policy. Students read and discuss a number of texts related to public policy issues and current events incorporating perspectives from their internships and research. The issues are approached at three levels:

  •   A close examination of the issues per se
  •   As examples of agenda building and policy making
  •   As evidence of the dynamics of social change in society


The seminar serves as a forum for critical analysis of the Washington experience. This is a Holy Cross course taught by a member of our faculty.

Commonly Asked Questions

Who Can Participate?
Admission to the Program is competitive but is open to all 3rd year and 4th year students.

How Do I Apply?
Two informational meetings are held each year and applications are submitted in February for the following year.

Where Will I Live?
You are allowed to make your own housing arrangements but most of our students stay at the Warwick House Apartments in Arlington, Virginia

How Do I Find An Internship?
The CISS resource room at the College houses information on all of the internship possibilities in DC plus evaluations by former HC students. Students meet individually with the Director of the Program to discuss different internship possibilities.

What Is The Cost?
Students pay tuition to Holy Cross and take care of their own room and board in DC. The experience of most students is that the cost of the is slightly higher due to increased costs for entertainment and travel.

How Are My Credits Applied?
Students receive three separate grades: internship, research and seminar. Grades count toward HC gpa and credits can fulfill Department and Concentration requirements with prior consent.

How Is The College Involved While I'm In DC?
CISS maintains contact with the students and their agencies during the semester. Prof. De Angelis visits the students and their agencies twice during the semester. The seminar instructor serves as an on-sight faculty advisor. Each student has a faculty sponsor at Holy Cross.

Examples of Recent Internship Placements

ABC News

American Enterprise Institute

American Engineers Consulting Council

Amnesty International

Brookings Institute

Business Roundtable

CBS Evening News

Center for Strategic and International Studies

Children's Defense Fund


Comptroller of the Currency

Congressional Offices: House and Senate

Common Cause

Corporation Counsel

Dept. of Commerce

Dept. of Education

Dept. of Health and Human Services

Dept. of Labor


Holocaust Memorial Research Center

House Foreign Relations Committee

International Sculpture Center

Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty

National Catholic Reporter

National Endowment for the Arts

National Institute for Justice-Justice Dept.


Presidents Commission on Mental Health

Office of the Vice President

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative


State Dept.


Sierra Club

Senate Judiciary Committee

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

White House

Women's Research and Education Institute

The Washington Semester Provides...

  •   an opportunity to work and learn in a stimulating
  •   professional environment assessing one's strengths and weaknesses.
  •   professional experience in your chosen field.
  •   the development of significant research skills.
  •   the chance to make valuable and important contacts.
  •   a unique opportunity to integrate the experiential and analytical.
  •   an increasing awareness of the World and National Affairs.
  •   improved written and oral communication skills and analytical skills.
  •   the development of leadership skills and professional competencies, e.g. time management & organizational skills.
  •   an increase in self-reliance, esteem and confidence.
  •   cultural and recreational advantages of a uniquely international city.
  •   the chance to explore career options.
  •   the chance to explore service to society and to develop notions of citizenship.
  •   the chance to apply what you have learned at HC.
  •   the opportunity to meet with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (HC '71), depending on his schedule.


Student and Agency Comments

"I had an amazing experience in Washington and will never forget the things I learned there. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am extremely grateful to Holy Cross and the Washington Program." Eleis Brennan '08 (Ofc. of Sen. Hillary Clinton)

"I cannot express enough what an amazing semester it was in D.C. It was an experience I will never forget. The semester certainly was not easy but it was definitely worth all of the hard work." Erin Breen '06 (House Foreign Affairs Cmt.)

"Whenever someone asks me how I enjoyed my time in Washington, I always begin my response with 'it changed my life'." Nicole Given '10 (Securities and Exchange Commission)

"It was the best decision I have made thus far at Holy Cross and will certainly influence my career ambitions in the future." Leslie Herrmann '11 (Ofc. Of Sen. John Kerry)

"The Washington Program changed my life and that is not an exaggeration .... The HC Washington Semester was my first exposure to the City and the chance to work in the White Howe shaped my professional career. The Program remains one of my fondest memories from college and is something I frequently site as one of HC's greatest assets." Mike Melia '02 (White House Press Ofc.)

"The Holy Cross Washington Program is, by far, the best program I have had experience
with ..... because of the program's guidelines and rigorous academic schedule I feel that Stephanie's experiences in Washingtoln were greatly enhanced. In addition, Prof DeAngelis' visits
provided a rare cohesion between Stephanie's academic and office work .... Holy Cross should be
congratulated for creating a wonderful program for its students." Senator Frank Lautenberg

"In all the years we have had interns in this division my meeting with Prof DeAngelis was the first of its kind. I found it valuable to learn more about the Holy Cross program and respect his initiative to meet with me. I can only conclude that this kind of attention is a direct reflection of the quality of this program and its long term benefits to Holy Cross and, most importantly, its students."  Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin, American Enterprise Institute

"As the Intern Director at the Dept. of Justice I am exposed to a vast number of intern programs at many of the top notch schools and I must say I have never seen a program run as well as the HC Washington Program ... We were so impressed with the HC Program and Mike that we offered him a summer job."  Lauren Varian, U.S. Department of Justice

"In all of my years of supervising interns here. I've not seen a program that puts as much time and thought into the overall internship experience and learning process as the one at Holy Cross."  Dr. Marc Ostfield, Senior Advisor Bioterrorism, Biodefense, & Health Security, U.S. Dept. of State