MHC Semester in D.C. returns to in-person operations

MHC Semester in D.C. program resumed its in-person operations in the fall 2021.

By Chris Goudreau 

Mount Holyoke students who wanted to gain insight into the world of politics and public service were able to do so in person in Washington, D.C., once again. MHC Semester in D.C. program resumed its in-person operations in the fall 2021 semester, allowing students to work directly with alum mentors during public service internships in the nation’s capital. 

New partnership

In September 2021 three MHC Semester in D.C. students traveled to Washington, D.C., to engage in internships while completing public service-related coursework on campus at American University, a partnership now in its second year. 

Amy E. Martin, director of Mount Holyoke’s Weissman Center for Leadership, which organizes MHC Semester in D.C. under its Leadership and Public Service program, calls the experience the “culminating opportunity for students involved in public service.” 

“Students are having this entwined experience of deepening their academic expertise in fields related to public service while having the experiential learning that comes with a prestigious internship in the world of government, nonprofit work, different kinds of political consulting agencies and lobbying groups,” Martin said. 

Martin said alums of the program have described it as a transformative experience. Many return to Washington, D.C., with job opportunities to start careers in public service. 

Networks

In addition to their coursework and internships, students in the Semester in D.C. program also meet with lawmakers and prominent civil servants in government agencies. 

Sohail Hashmi, faculty director of MHC Semester in D.C., said he believes the program creates career opportunities for students as they develop professional relationships with alum mentors. 

“It’s opening doors for them that will allow them to follow any path they themselves choose,” Hashmi said. “That, for me, has been the best part of the program — to open those doors and see where they go.” 

Hashmi said graduates of the program have launched careers utilizing the networks they established during their internship in Washington, D.C. 

“The story will go on,” he said. “The program is very young. I’m truly convinced that one day we’ll be visiting a graduate of the program during a site visit who is serving in the State Department or the U.S. Senate, and who knows, maybe we’ll visit someone in the White House?” 

Experiences

Even during the remote semester, students were able to attend campaigns for Ghazala Hashmi, Hashmi’s sister who successfully ran for a Virginia State Democratic Senate seat. 

“Getting to meet Ghazla Hasmhi was a great moment,” Cristina Arechiga ’23, an environmental studies and politics major from Los Angeles, California, who worked at the Office of the White House Liaison, Department of Commerce, said. “It was just an incredibly enriching experience getting to listen to senators talk about what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated political scene. That was one of my favorite moments in D.C.” 

Michaela Phelan ’22, an international relations major from Swampscott, Massachusetts, took part in an internship this past fall at the Advocacy Center located in the U.S. Department of Commerce. 

One of the most memorable moments from her internship was when her advisor asked her to lead a meeting. 

“It felt really nice to be noticed even as an intern, that my work was being recognized,” Phelan said. 

Bright futures

Shloka Gidwani ’22, an economics and English major from Mumbai, India, interned at Washington CORE, an independent research and consulting research firm. 

“I think my favorite project was electric vehicles,” Gidwani said. “It was really interesting to do research on sustainable travel in the U.S. and the barriers to entry for electric vehicles and just the environmental policies around it.” 

Her experience connecting with MHC alums in Washington, D.C., was also a highlight. 

“One put me in touch with a potential employer,” Gidwani said. “They were all really sweet and offered so much career advice and made time to schedule us in despite the fact that they were all really busy.” 

Martin said the Semester in D.C. program is unique because of the personalized approach alums bring to mentoring student interns. 

“To have a one-on-one alum mentor who works in D.C. and who meets with you regularly and to be plugged into a much larger vibrant network of D.C. alums is just so important,” Martin said. 

“Mount Holyoke students want to make a major impact and change the world for the better,” she said. “The MHC Semester in D.C. program offers them an opportunity to develop the skills, networks and inspiration they need to accomplish that through a future in public service.”

Learn more about MHC Semester in D.C. and next year’s program at the information session on March 24, 2022 at 5 p.m.

Hashmi said graduates of the program have launched careers utilizing the networks they established during their internship in Washington, D.C. 

“The story will go on,” he said. “The program is very young. I’m truly convinced that one day we’ll be visiting a graduate of the program during a site visit who is serving in the State Department or the U.S. Senate, and who knows, maybe we’ll visit someone in the White House?”

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