A key part of American University’s Washington Semester Program is the guest speakers. Sometimes my class travels downtown to the office of the speaker while other times they travel to American’s campus to speak to us in the classroom. Our speakers range from a partner of the media firm that produced all of Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign advertisements, to Republican and Democratic Congressmen, to people from lobbying and advocacy groups in various areas of policy.
The speaker’s organization is usually related to what we are learning about in class. They typically talk about their career and their organization and its mission. Usually the speaker will end by providing their contact information. People in Washington are always looking for the next generation that will be replacing them so they can ensure their goals and messages will persist. Students walk out of these class sessions with a new knowledge about the way Washington works, new career paths not previously known, and specific organizations they can contact to get involved.
I myself have gotten numerous business cards from speakers in organizations I found inspiring. I have also explored new parts of Washington. Such as the bookstore Politics & Prose owned by the class speaker and former speech writer for Hillary Clinton. I have also learned about different ways to get involved and influence policy.
The Washington Semester Program does an excellent job combining experiential learning through internships, traditional learning through seminars and lectures, and career development through guest speakers. I believe I will be leaving this program with growth in so many different areas that I may not have expected, which I am very grateful for!