Classroom Expands for ASP and WJC Students in D.C. During Presidential Election Year

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The crowd at the White House by Connor McClain
The crowd at the White House by Connor McClain
ASP and WJC students at the White House - includes (left to right) Meagan Jennings (Oral Roberts University), Connor McClain (Hope International University), Sydney Bickers (Milligan College).
ASP and WJC students at the White House - includes (left to right) Meagan Jennings (Oral Roberts University), Connor McClain (Hope International University), Sydney Bickers (Milligan College).

WASHINGTON – Each semester, approximately 40 students from a variety of CCCU campuses venture to Washington, D.C., to participate in BestSemester’s American Studies Program and Washington Journalism Center. Whether studying public policy, global development, or journalism, the students relish the opportunity to make the capital city their classroom for one exciting semester. However, once every four years, the city offers a little something extra to these students: the chance to experience the historic event that is a presidential election.

The fall 2012 semester was no exception. While some students, upon returning from a long day at their internship site, opted to take in the election results alongside their peers at the quintessential pizza party in the student lounge, others had alternative plans.

For Connor McClain, a junior from Hope International University in Fullerton, Calif., and an ASP student this fall, it was the opportunity to cross one more item off his “DC Bucket List”—head to the White House on election night.

“I love politics in general, and I really wanted to experience what it would be like on election night at the White House,” McClain shared. So he and a few friends from ASP and WJC trekked over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that Tuesday night. 

“We were constantly checking the news on our phones on the trip over. Just about the time we arrived, NBC began projecting that Barack Obama had won re-election. Cars were honking, people were yelling, and students from [nearby George Washington University] began streaming toward the White House.” McClain compared the atmosphere to when a major sports team wins a championship and everyone in the city goes wild. “It didn’t seem to matter your political view. Everyone was in a celebratory mood!”

Sydney Bickers, who is studying at WJC, was also thrilled to be a part of the crowd. “There were actually a lot more people there than I had expected. It was very exciting and actually the first time I had been that close to the White House.”

Heading to the “People’s House” was just one part of an already full day. As part of Bickers’ internship with the Georgetown version of the local news site Patch.com, the student from Milligan College in Milligan College, Tenn., spent the day at various polling locations across the city interacting with voters for an article on local charter amendments. When her editor, Shaun Courtney, learned Bickers was at the White House that night, she asked Bickers to tweet her experience to the Patch’s twitter feed.

Reflecting on the day and her entire DC experience, Bickers said, “You can’t help but get caught up in the conversation of the city.”

Another WJC student, Keely Brazil, hailing from The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, Calif., was sent to Maryland polling places to interview voters for her internship with The Washington Times. 

“This city is always the center of national attention to some extent, but to see it in its prime, firing on all cylinders, a vibrant place where people know and care about current events and have opinions as to the direction of our country—that was pretty exciting. I couldn't have asked for a better time to see this incredible city.”

Of course, a semester in Washington does not begin or end with an election. Life goes on even after the last ballot is cast and counted.

After years of planning to study in D.C., McClain is still impressed with how the entire semester has gone “above and beyond his expectations.” From meeting notable members of the House of Representatives, to his internship with Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), to cheering on every major league sports team at least once, to engaging members of the community at the bus stop or during service projects, McClain has learned that “DC is more than just the capital; it’s people too.”

“If any student thinks that a semester spent in Washington, D.C., is not worth their time, they should definitely reconsider. You will learn so much about what it is really like to live and work in D.C., and you will gain a great experience, regardless of whether an election is going on or not,” McClain shared. “This has been my best semester and totally worth it!”

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About BestSemester: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities offers 12 off-campus study programs, collectively branded BestSemester®, which expand learning opportunities for students from CCCU campuses and are designated as culture-shaping or culture-crossing programs. Culture-shaping BestSemester programs are: American Studies Program (Washington, D.C.); Contemporary Music Center (Nashville); Los Angeles Film Studies Center (Los Angeles); and Washington Journalism Center (Washington, D.C.). Culture-crossing BestSemester programs are: Australia Studies Centre; China Studies Program; India Studies Program; Latin American Studies Program; Middle East Studies Program; Programmes in Oxford; and Uganda Studies Program. Visit www.bestsemester.com for program details.

About the CCCU:  The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 171 intentionally Christ-centered institutions around the world. The 118 member campuses in North America are all fully-accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences. In addition, 53 affiliate campuses from 19 countries are part of the CCCU. The Council’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit www.cccu.org.