‘Mini-Mester’ students see inside politics

Angela Moret

For students looking to learn about government in the real world and get a foot in the door in Washington, D.C., the University’s political science department offers a three-week head start.

For the past 31 years, the department has taken a group of about 20 students to Washington, D.C. for a shortened semester, known as a “Mini-Mester.” Students have the opportunity to glance at real world politics at the federal level, led by Professor Jeffrey Hahn of the political science department.

The 2004 Washington Mini-Mester will be held from May 16 to June 4 and application registration begins on Feb. 6. Those attending receive three political science credits for their work. Attendance at the 35-40 seminars, keeping a journal, required readings and an exam are the key components to receiving credit, which counts towards a political science major or minor or as an upper-level political science core requirement.

The program emphasizes the process of government, not individual bills, laws, or policies. Officials and issues are constantly changing, but in Washington, D.C., the process always remains the same. According to Hahn, students get a “concrete feel for politics in the real world and learn what to look for when they meet people in D.C.”

Students also learn how complicated work is in Washington, D.C., and gain a “realistic appreciation of policy making mechanics,” Hahn said.

Lijue Phillip, a junior Political Science major who attended last year’s Mini-Mester, said, “We could ask [the politicians] anything and get a good feel for what D.C. politics are like.”

Hahn, who also specializes in Russian studies, has run the program for 26 years. In addition, he also has experience in local politics.

Hahn says he most enjoys sharing the excitement of the students in Washington, D.C., as they see “the people who are making federal policy up close and personal.”

Last year’s students met with Terence McAuliffe, Democratic National Committee chairman, Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rick Santorum, Republican senator of Pennsylvania, Education Secretary Rod Paige and others.

Students also got to experience living in Washington, D.C. for their three-week stay. “We were responsible for getting to the program on our own using the Metro, so we got to see what D.C. is like,” said Phillip. “I would absolutely recommend the program.”

Application registration begins on Feb. 6 at 12:30 p.m. in the Saint Augustine Center, room 202. A non-refundable deposit of $200 is due to the political science department at the time of registration.