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01-03-2011

A Capital Gain: Clarkson University Student Jill Ward Is Learning How D.C. Works In The Washington Semester Program

POTSDAM, N.Y. – Some college students learn about politics and government from textbooks. Others, however, prefer to learn at the source. Jill M. Ward chose the latter.

Ward is a Clarkson University student who is spending this semester in the nation's capital as a student in the Washington Semester Program at American University.

Clarkson University was recently named a "member institution" in the Washington Semester Program, joining more than 200 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and Europe. Students can participate in one of four versions of the program: American Politics/National Government, International Business and Trade, Journalism, and Justice. Weekly seminars feature the movers and shakers of government, business, media and law. Internship opportunities provide students with experience towards their career goals.

It is hard to put into words everything that I have gotten out of this program, said the junior, daughter of Judy Paquette and John Ward. "Every day, I feel like I have learned so much and then the next day I learn ten times more. The main lesson that I have learned thus far is to listen. All of the people that I have heard from are experts in their respective fields, and as such, have so much information to relay and are very eager to do so. Our only duty is to listen and learn. I feel it is my responsibility to get the most out of every experience."

Ward first learned of the program from her American Politics professor at Clarkson, Jack P. Geise. "After I began learning more about the Washington Semester," Ward said, "I was hooked, and the rest is history."

According to Ward, program participants attend seminars Monday through Wednesday, and intern on Thursday and Friday. Seminars focus on a particular subject--Social Security, for example--with guest speakers from two sides of the issue. She said that the program does not try to emphasize one viewpoint over the other, rather, it gives students all the facts and allow them to make up their own minds.

Ward is doing her internship in the offices of U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.). Her duties include processing the Senator's mail, answering phones, running Congressional errands for the staff and attending committee meetings.

Politics is nothing new to Ward. At Clarkson, she served as a sophomore class senator last year. In high school, she was active in student government and was student body president in her senior year. She also participated in the Model U.N. program. Still, she was in awe over Washington and the power and influence it holds.

Even today, this city is still full of decision makers and politicians, she said. " It is a very powerful city which attracts people from all walks of life and is still amazingly clean. I find this city intriguing and very intellectually stimulating."

Participating in the Washington Semester Program has helped Ward in her Clarkson education. She said that she has a firmer grasp on how politics works, and that benefits her studies in the marketing and political science majors. At the same time, her experiences at Clarkson has helped her to get the most from her experiences in Washington.

By having individual contact with my professors and advisers at Clarkson, I have come to expect the same elsewhere, and thus was not shy about being noticed in D.C., she said. "With Clarkson's small class sizes, it made it easy to become involved with discussions so that now in Washington it just seems natural to ask questions or comment regularly."

Following her semester in D.C., Ward will return to Clarkson to complete her studies. She said that she would like to return to Washington after graduation to work in the private sector, possibly getting involved with the issue of the privatization of Social Security, something she finds interesting. A firm believer in the notion that young people should have an awareness of how government operates, she said she would welcome the opportunity to help change their minds about government.

If there are any type of opportunities in which I would be able to make a difference in young people's perception of the government and show them that it really does affect their lives, then I would take that opportunity in a second, she said.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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