The main thing that keeps Quinnipiac University coming back for The Washington Center seminars is knowing that TWC provides extremely high-quality, experiential education to its students. And no one knows this better than Scott McLean, Faculty Leader for Quinnipiac University’s seminar participants.
TWC is Quinnipiac University’s main partner for study away in Washington, D.C. The relationship encompasses much of TWC programming, though the primary focus pertains to the Convention and Inside Washington seminars. Quinnipiac’s participation with these stretches back to 2000 and 2001, respectively.
The Washington Center seminar programming affords benefits to students and faculty alike.
I think what’s best is it gives such a richer experience and deeper understanding of politics through actually being here and engaging with the speakers, seeing the city and doing all the things one can only do in D.C., seeing something you haven’t seen before, spending time among other students and faculty invested in the world of politics, just as you are.
Attending an Inside Washington seminar, you’re hearing from speakers that, a campus might land once a semester and, if you miss it, it’s gone forever.
Every single day during these two weeks there’s a great speaker or expert, maybe someone that appears regularly on TV or has published a book or contributed articles, that will challenge, inform or maybe, in some cases, entertain. A university or college can’t match that volume or access of speakers. We tell the students, they’re going to get an experience here at TWC they would never get on campus.
In addition to the speakers, there’s a socialization component to TWC seminars for our students.
There’s a sense that there’s a bigger world out there and you can be a part of it. Being engaged and informed and interested in government and politics is the norm in a place like Washington, D.C., where everyone talks about politics. Even the cab drivers have an opinion and a sophisticated understanding of what’s going on. Students meet other students who care about politics the way they do and they can begin making connections with them too.
This environment can be very transformative for someone 19- or 20-years old and wondering what they want to do with their lives. It’s a chance for them to prove they can take responsibility, behave maturely and professionally. It gives them a sense of what it might be like to be an intern or working professional in Washington, D.C., being in charge of things, how people treat them when they dress professionally, and that’s an important thing to learn. They need coaching in a relatively safe environment, whether their aspiration is public service, diplomacy, media, or something else.
This program gives them an idea of this is how it works in D.C. It’s a nice healthy taste of Washington in just two weeks to see if they want to come back to it.
I have about 25 former students who have gone on to work in Washington, most of whom came through TWC.
They’re legislative aides or work in media, the Pentagon, think tanks. Visiting with them while in D.C. is kind of like looking back on your career and seeing that you really made a difference. Maybe they wouldn’t be here if not for TWC and me pushing students to come be part of it. They might have ended up elsewhere. I think it’s gratifying to see all these people who I feel I had some influence on them being here, being good professionals, and focused on making a difference beyond just what they learned in my class. It’s really remarkable.
It’s been tremendous professionally, too.
Before, I was really teaching textbook courses without having connections with policymakers and political institutions. Attending Inside Washington has helped me develop a richer understanding of Congress and the Presidency. The ability to come and meet your Senator or Representative has given me insight and made me a better teacher so that I can visualize, at least in my own mind, what I’m talking about and it’s not something dry out of a book. Now, I have my own stories to tell, so that I can make those institutions come to life.
I learn from my fellow faculty leaders.
The political science field is very broad and diverse. There are hours of discussion among the faculty members who’ve come to D.C. (many of whom I’ve known now for decades) from all over the country, bringing different perspectives, different regional points of view or different political realities. My network of colleagues I’ve developed over my experience here has helped my research agenda as well, or at least shaped it. I’ve teamed up on research projects or publications, or gotten onto a panel thanks to someone I knew, directly or indirectly, through my TWC experience.
The people I’ve connected with have made me feel like there’s a place for me in political science.
A place for someone who’s focused mostly on teaching. A place for someone who wants to do experiential education and I can fine tune and hone my ability to make those experiences count for the students, in part thanks to them.
The net effect of my TWC experience is I’m a better teacher for my students back on campus. That’s probably been the most enriching thing for me.