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 and it allows them to have the opportunity to work with national leaders, engage in independent research, and live in the stimulating environment of Washington, D.C. 

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 integrate 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. 

Internship

Each student is required to spend four days per week working in a Washington-based agency or office. Over the past 25 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 ensure 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 multidisciplinary in nature our placement opportunities cover a wide range of public, 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.

Thesis

All Washington Semester students will complete a 35-page research thesis during their time in D.C. Students are required to compose a paper that reflects their internship assignment or, at least, the work and role of their particular agency. At the end of the semester, students will present their work, via video conference, to their thesis advisor and the director of the Washington Semester Program. (Note that this is somewhat different from past years, when students were required to return to campus and participate in an oral exam; students are no longer required to come back to campus to present.) 

Seminar

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 policies are approached at three levels: through a close examination of the issues themselves, as examples of agenda building and policy making, and as evidence of the dynamics of social change in society.

If you are interested in the Washington Semester Program, please submit your application by clicking the link below.

Info Session for Academic Year 2023-2024

Commonly Asked Questions

Who can participate?
Admission to the Program is competitive but is open to all 3rd year and first-semester 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?
The College arranges housing for all D.C. students in corporate extended stay apartments in Arlington, Virginia.

How do I find an internship?
The center houses information on many internship possibilities in D.C., as well as agency evaluations by former Holy Cross students. Some opportunities are posted to Handshake. Students may also 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 D.C. The experience of most students is that the cost is slightly higher due to increased costs for housing, but varies from year to year as rental prices in D.C. fluctuate.

How are my credits applied?
Students receive three separate grades, for the internship, research and seminar respectively. Grades count toward Holy Cross GPA and credits can fulfill department and concentration requirements with prior consent.

How is the College involved while I'm in D.C.?
The director of the program, Prof. Gary DeAngelis, generally maintains contact remotely with the students and their agencies except when he visits D.C. twice during the semester. The seminar instructor serves as an on-site faculty advisor. And each student has a faculty sponsor at Holy Cross who advises directly on the thesis.

Examples of Recent Internship Placements

  • ABC News
  • Amnesty International
  • Brookings Institute
  • Business Roundtable
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Children's Defense Fund
  • Congressional Offices: House and Senate
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Labor
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
  • Holocaust Memorial Research Center
  • International Sculpture Center
  • Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • The Pentagon
  • Office of the Vice President
  • Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
  • The State Department
  • Smithsonian
  • 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
  • the development of significant research skills
  • the chance to make valuable and important contacts
  • an increasing awareness of the World and National Affairs
  • the development of leadership skills and professional competencies, e.g. time management & organizational skills
  • the cultural and recreational advantages of living in a uniquely international city
  • the chance to explore service to society and to develop notions of citizenship

Handbook

For more information, download the Washington Semester Program handbook (PDF)

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