Discovering Washington D.C. with political science

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Washington, D.C., home to the United States’ federal government and over 50 BYU-Idaho political science alumni, is a destination for students hoping for a career in politics. For over 10 years, the Political Science Department has organized trips to the city. Described as an eye-opening experience, the trips help students make the dream of working in Washington a reality.

Duane Adamson, department chair in the History, Geography, Political Science Department, helps manage these trips. He has seen political science students become trapped in the mindset that their degree can’t take them to a job in Washington. Adamson said this trip changes that by giving them a sense of place. As they see BYU-I alumni succeeding in the city, they come to realize how attainable their dreams can be.

“Students think, ‘Maybe I can do this,’” Adamson said. “‘Maybe I can follow that dream that seemed a bit beyond my reach. Maybe I can work in this field.’”

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The trip gives students the confidence to come back to Washington post-graduation. It also helps with practical issues such as housing, employment, finances and social factors.

Brynn Keel, a senior studying public policy and administration, attended the most recent trip. Keel said she witnessed successful BYU-I alumni excelling in Washington.

“There are those from our school who have paved a path for those to come,” Keel said.

Students build connections as they meet with BYU-I alumni who currently work in Washington. Adamson’s students have been placed in internships from the foreign relations committee of the Senate to the State Department. The connections are not limited to professional contacts. In fact, a wedding engagement has even taken place on this trip.

“It’s about networking,” Adamson said. “It’s about getting a sense of place and being able to put themselves in that place.”

Adamson said the political Washington workplace expects new hires to read, write and summarize information on a graduate level. They also want “humble” students who are willing to attend Senate hearings, meet with members of Congress, make copies and do lunch runs. He advises students to work hard and see the bigger picture.

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“If you’re willing to go and work hard and make a positive impression, they’ll find a place for you and it’ll transition into a job,” Adamson said.

Adamson encourages any student, particularly those who think it might be beyond them, to go on the Washington trip. He encourages students passionate about political science to “come and see” if it is a good fit for them. Adamson hopes that students come back feeling hopeful.

“This would be a meaningful life path and a meaningful career path for them,” Adamson said. “And that they know they can do it.”

Find out more about the Department of Political Science here.