March 4, 2004

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Contact: Burdett Loomis, political science, (785) 864-9033, bloomis@ku.edu, or Dan Lara, University Relations, (785) 864-8855, dlara@ku.edu.

Washington program celebrates 20 years of linking KU students to D.C.

LAWRENCE -- Jeremy Anderson fondly remembers his Washington, D.C., internship with Kansas Congressman Jim Slattery in 1994.

"It was a great opportunity to see how government worked," said Anderson, a 1995 University of Kansas graduate in political science. "It was my first experience working in D.C. Congress was just starting hearings on the Persian Gulf War Syndrome. It was exciting to be involved in hearings on that issue and a host of other hot topics at that time."

Anderson, currently director for government affairs for Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, is one of many KU students to learn up close how Washington works. Since 1984, the KU Washington Semester Program has sent more than 400 students from KU and other institutions to the nation's capital to immerse themselves in politics, government, public affairs and the arts of Washington.

The program will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a reception March 9 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington. Former and current KU interns will attend, along with friends of KU and many former and current officials from Kansas.

Burdett Loomis, professor and chair of political science at KU, has directed the program since its beginning. The program provides invaluable experience for students who want to make a career out of politics or public service, he said.

"When students undertake their internships, they become a part of the office or group they work for, just as if they were full-time staff," Loomis said. "The opportunity to learn from firsthand experience and the chance to network with politicians and others provides a tremendous advantage for students when they leave KU."

Through the years, KU's interns have worked for every branch and office of federal government, as well as political organizations, the media, special interest and advocacy groups, nonprofit firms and cultural institutions.

The list includes the White House, National Science Foundation, Office of U.S. Trade Representative, National Governors' Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Alliance for Justice, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, C-SPAN, CNN, EMILY's List, D.C. Public Defender's Office, Children's Defense Fund, the State Department, the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Institution.

KU interns also have staffed dozens of Capitol Hill offices for members representing Kansas and other states.

"Among the Kansas delegation, many of our interns worked for former Sen. Bob Dole and former Congressmen Dan Glickman and Jim Slattery," Loomis said. "In more recent times, Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts and Congressman Dennis Moore have offered great opportunities to many of our students."

About 20 to 25 students are selected to participate, and they are primarily responsible for finding their internships but can enlist the help of their professors and others in the search. KU also arranges for furnished apartments near the D.C.-Maryland border with easy access to Washington's Metro subway system.

Students spend 16 weeks from the middle of January to the beginning of May in full-time internships. This aspect of the program is somewhat unusual, Loomis said, as many other programs last only a few weeks or involve only part-time work.

In the early years, many internships were unpaid, but now as many as half the internships provide a monthly or hourly wage. The biggest advantage for KU interns over other programs, however, is the cost.

"The focus of our program has always been to give KU students the best opportunity to experience an internship at the lowest price," Loomis said. "There are some internship programs that cost $15,000 or more. KU's program averages around $3,500 per student. It's a real bargain, and our students can maintain their financial aid and scholarships while participating in the program."

In addition to KU students, in the past decade, four or five students per year from Wichita State University have participated in the program, along with occasional students from Kansas State University.

While Loomis directs the program from Lawrence, he also has the help of Linda and Jim Slattery in Washington. Jim Slattery served 12 years as a member of Congress from Topeka. Since 1999, they have organized the seminar portion of the internship, where once a week, interns meet to interact with notable speakers ranging from Bob Dole to Washington Post reporters to prominent public affairs scholars. Prior to the Slatterys involvement, former Kansas Congressman Bob Whittaker provided assistance with the program from 1990 to 1998.

"This program is very helpful for those individuals who want to make a career in politics or live in D.C.," Linda Slattery said. "First, they learn much about our political system by just being a part of a congressional office or in the White House. Second, they learn a lot about the city by living here for a semester. The joys and frustration of life in Washington are experienced firsthand."

Anderson certainly understands how valuable the experience was for him. His internship with Slattery's office went so well, he was offered a permanent job on the congressman's staff even though he had a year left to earn his degree. Anderson spent the rest of 1994 in Washington before returning to Lawrence to finish his studies.

"Working in Washington, D.C., helped me make a lot of key contacts and strengthened my resolve to be in public service," he said. "And it was a great opportunity to be with 20 or 30 of your peers who worked in other offices and for different political parties. We would have some great debates.

"I had a great time, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

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