Inside Washington: Spring Semester 2020 at the U.S. EPA

By: Lindsey Brown

I spent my first few months of 2020 in Washington D.C. studying through Miami University’s Inside Washington (IW) program. Choosing a study abroad can be a daunting experience, but the Global Initiatives office offers advice for choosing the perfect program for you. Additionally, many programs have information sessions to lay out the details of the program and can help narrow down the extensive options. 

The Inside Washington program is a summer- or semester-long “study away” program for students to live in D.C. where they complete an internship, research projects and extensive networking opportunities led by Miami professor Annie Blair and FOX News congressional correspondent and Miami alum Chad Pergram. The first five weeks of the semester program are spent meeting with speakers from D.C., both on Capitol Hill and off the Hill. My cohort met so many incredible speakers, such as former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (a Miami alum!), Senator Sherrod Brown, former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, current White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Speaker John Boehner, and dozens more. 

Our assignments for the first five weeks of the program were called whip briefings, and they helped us  prepare for our weekly meetings with speakers Wednesday through Friday. The first five weeks of the program were also spent conducting ethnographic research on a D.C. community with the purpose of writing a research paper. The remainder of the program is spent interning; with 10 students in the 2020 spring program, we were all interning at different places, with some students in congressional offices and others at lobbying groups and government agencies. I interned with the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water in the Drinking Water Protection Division of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The Inside Washington program created a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a semester that I will not soon forget. The opportunity to meet such influential speakers was an inspiring and exceptional networking experience, and one my classmates and I all enjoyed. Our ethnographic research projects provided a unique way to familiarize ourselves with DC: I researched various DC running groups throughout the city, and I was able to run through national landmarks on a daily basis. Running along the Potomac River is one of my favorite memories from the semester, and it’s something I hope to do again soon. 

What I enjoyed most about the Inside Washington program was the diversity of student academic interests; while primarily a Journalism and Political Science driven experience, students of any major are welcome to apply. As a Public Health and Environmental Science student, there were not many IW alumni before me with similar academic interests. No Miami student had interned with the EPA either l; through this experience, both Annie Blair and my supervisors with the agency agreed that more Miami IW students should apply to intern at the EPA. Hopefully in the future, students from STEM backgrounds will have more opportunities for networking and internships. 

Sadly, just as students on campus returned home and transitioned to online work due to coronavirus, President Crawford called for all domestic study away programs to be suspended, so students were required to return home. While it was a quick turnaround for many of us, we packed up our belongings to return home in the next few days. Back in Ohio, I am continuing my internship with the EPA through teleworking operations. Though it was an awkward transition at first, teleworking has now become an efficient compromise and I am fortunate I can continue working with EPA. COVID-19 brought an abrupt end to many students’ semesters this spring, and Miami University was no different. But for me, the short months I had to spend in D.C. were ones I learned so much from, as well as met more amazing Miami students that quickly became close friends.  

Below are some photos from my semester in D.C.: 

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Our meeting with Dean Phillips (D-MN) outside his office in Longworth on the Hill. Congressman Phillips is new to the Hill, elected in 2019, with a focus on campaign finance, electoral and ethics reforms,  addressing healthcare costs, global climate change and our nation’s gun violence epidemic. I greatly enjoyed our discussion with Congressman Phillips, and while we were never able to attend one of his Friday morning “Donuts with Dean” breakfasts, his ideas of modernizing Congress were popular for debate among our group. 

 

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We briefly met Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) on her way to another meeting, thanks to the assistance from IW Program co-director Chad Pergram. While our meeting was very short, it was exciting to have the opportunity to meet with her and ask a few questions. 

 

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Meeting with Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was a very interesting experience; our meeting’s discussion began with talk on Oxford’s Bagel and Deli restaurant and ended with the future of income and economic inequality originating in Washington. 

 

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The Spring 2020 Inside Washington cohort.

 

All photos courtesy of Lindsey Brown

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