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Good news from schools: Gwinnettians participating in UGA program

Twenty University of Georgia students are spending spring semester in Washington, D.C., working as interns in congressional offices, think tanks and nonprofit organizations through UGA's Washington Semester Program.

Not only will the students be given a window into the inner workings of government, but they will be able to experience firsthand the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

Launched one year ago under the auspices of UGA's Office of the Vice President for Instruction, the Washington Semester Program has reached full capacity with the 20 spring participants.

"I am pleased that we have a full class in Washington for this historic semester," said Don De Maria, director of the Washington Semester Program. "This is a very impressive group that will be outstanding ambassadors of UGA in our nation's capital."

"The extraordinary growth and development of the Washington Semester Program in only one year has been very exciting," added Vice President for Instruction Jere Morehead. "The decision to create this program has been validated by the strong interest of our undergraduate students and the outstanding educational quality of the program."

Through the program, the students enroll in two three-hour courses. The traditional course covers a political science topic such as ethics or public policy as it relates to current events. The other course is a seminar on D.C. life, work and culture with guest speakers from UGA and the D.C. area. An additional six hours of credit can be applied toward directed study, internship or research courses through the student's academic department.

For the spring 2009 program, Susan Haire, associate professor of political science at UGA, will teach "Politics and Public Policy in the U.S.," an introduction to the study of policy making, with an emphasis on the role of national political institutions and a focus on some of the challenges the incoming presidential administration will face.

"Students will be uniquely positioned to learn from events taking place this winter and spring in the nation's capital," said Haire, who participated in the inaugural semester of the program in spring 2008. "For a long time, divided government shaped policy making. Now, a newly elected Democratic president and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress will be addressing a broad range of pressing issues in domestic affairs and foreign policy. These next few months will lay the foundation for policy making over the next several years, making for an exciting, and instructive period."

Guest lecturers for the seminar class this spring include Trey Paris, president of UGA's Alumni Association, and Betty Hudson, executive vice president of communications at National Geographic and board member for the UGA Arch Foundation. Special activities will include a visit to the CIA and a panel discussion featuring Senate and House chiefs-of-staff.

Another integral part of the program is the involvement of the D.C. Dawgs, members of the Washington, D.C. chapter of UGA's Alumni Association. Students can network and receive guidance and other perspectives about D.C. from these alumni while participating in academic and cultural events.

Applications for the 2009-10 academic year are available online, along with further information about the Washington Semester Program at www.uga.edu/dcsemester.

The spring 2009 participants from Gwinnett are:

n Spencer Cooper of Lawrenceville, majoring in environmental health and interning at U.S. Department of Interior

n Bryan Cruce of Grayson, majoring in political science and interning at Office of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson

n Jacob Harper of Suwanee, majoring in international affairs and interning at National Defense University; and

n Leanna Ruotanen of Lawrenceville, majoring in political science and international affairs and interning at Cato Institute.

Heather Darenberg writes about education. Good News From Schools appears in the Sunday edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post. For more good news, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com Monday.