Washington semester to launch in fall 2008

by Beacon Staff • October 14, 2007

The program is designed for politically inclined students using Emerson's popular Hollywood semester as a model, particularly its focus on taking an internship in the industry's epicenter, said Linda Peek-Schacht, the acting chair of the organizational and political communication department.,Emerson students' coffee-fetching horizons will broaden next September, when the department of organizational and political communication brings the first class of Emerson students to the nation's capitol for an internship-based semester.

The program is designed for politically inclined students using Emerson's popular Hollywood semester as a model, particularly its focus on taking an internship in the industry's epicenter, said Linda Peek-Schacht, the acting chair of the organizational and political communication department.

The first group of students to participate will be a "pilot program," she said, with the goal of making it the semester a permanent fixture. Students will intern on Capitol Hill and at lobbying organizations, think tanks, political action groups, governmental departments and nongovernmental organizations.

The Washington semester had been in the works since before Peek-Schacht took over the department three years ago, she said. The program was imagined by Phillip Glenn, currently a professor in the organizational and political communication department, while he was the department's chair.

Janis Andersen, the new dean of the school of communication, was instrumental in convincing Emerson's administration to put the program in place by next year, Peek-Schacht said.

Peek-Schacht, who worked in the capital for 13 years in both the public and private sectors, will shepherd the program to the capital city when her appointment as chair expires after the spring 2008 semester. She'll co-teach the required political communication course with other Emerson alumni in Washington.

"It's a great pleasure to see ideas finally come to fruition," she said. "Hopefully this will be a great legacy to leave for students."

Peek-Schacht said students have been clamoring for the Washington program.

Sophomore Monica Casanova said she wants to apply research she's begun on Darfur at an international relations firm or a think tank in Washington.

"This is a program students have been wanting for years," said Casanova, the organizational and political communication department's student senator. "I know it's going to prepare me very well for the future. It's a continuation of my work here that I can apply down there."

The program itself will be very similar to Emerson Los Angeles. Students will live together in apartments rented by the college. Peek-Schacht said there are four potential locations for the satellite campus, all of which are accessible by the city's subway system.

Although tailored for organizational and political communication students, Emerson students in other majors can enter the program with approval from Peek-Schacht and the chair of their own department, according to a statement from the department. Aside from an eight-credit internship, each student will take a four-credit course, a directed study and a political communication practicum.

But, as in Los Angeles, the main draw to Washington will be opportunities and connections to Emerson alumni.

Every other week, members of an advisory board comprised of Emerson graduates in the capital will dine with students, Peek-Schacht said. Some of the confirmed board members include Peter Loge, the former chair of Emerson's alumni association, and Alysse Nelson-Bloom of Vital Voice, an organization that celebrates women leaders around the world.

She said more than 100 alumni in the area attended a general interest event last year.

"The network of successful Emerson alumni in Washington was just begging to be used," Peek-Schacht said.

Sophomore Christopher Boutillier said he wants to intern at the Justice Department when he enters the program next fall.

"Given the connections that are in D.C. now, I feel like it really gives me an opportunity to get a high-level internship there," said Boutillier, who is the president of the Emerson Democrats.

"Everything's going on inside the Beltway. It's absolutely amazing because you're there to learn, but you're also there to get business cards and shake hands. You're in the middle of everything."