Spring Break Course: Politics & Government in Washington, D.C.

Spring Break Course: Politics & Government in Washington, D.C.


PL SC 177: Politics & Government in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. directional sign

Go inside politics and government during a trip to D.C. over Spring Break. The political science program sponsored a student trip to Washington, D.C. over Spring Break 2017 (March 4-12). The trip is a required portion of the course POLSC 177 (GS). The class is taught by Dr. Robert Speel, Associate Professor of Political Science, and is expected to take place next over Spring Break 2019.

The following information pertains to the 2017 trip and is provided for reference.

The exact itinerary will not be determined until February next year, but on past such trips, the group has met with all of our local members of Congress, with officials at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organization of American States, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the embassies of Australia, Romania, Botswana, India, Ireland, Canada, Jamaica, Estonia. Bulgaria, Latvia, and Indonesia. We have toured the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the C-SPAN studios. We have participated in seminars held in the Supreme Court chambers, Ford's Theatre, and the Federal Reserve Board room. Among the highlights of the trip will be meetings or tours with Penn State Behrend alumni who work on Capitol Hill, for federal government agencies, as policy analysts, or as political consultants in Washington.

We always visit Arlington National Cemetery and all the most famous monuments and memorials. Free time is provided to visit museums such as the Newseum, the International Spy Museum, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the various Smithsonian Museums, as well as the National Zoo. Students have also attended major sports and entertainment events in Washington, D.C. during the evening. Students should be aware that most of the places we visit during the week are only available to student groups in Washington and not to individual tourists. Some of the places we visit may provide the only opportunity some will have in their lives to tour certain government buildings or meet with certain officials in Washington.

The trip is associated with the political science course POLSC 177 (GS), and students will be required to sign up for either a three credit or one credit version of the course in order to take the trip. The three credit version of the course will involve weekly class meetings before and after the trip, to be held on Tuesdays or Thursdays at 4:35 p.m. We will meet twice a week in February and then end early in April. Most of the time in Washington is also considered class time. In addition, the three credit version of the class will involve assigned readings, quizzes, some research, and short papers appropriate for a three credit course.

The one credit version of the course will include participation in the trip and a 10-page paper to be written after the trip. It is intended for students who would like to participate in the trip to Washington, but who don't necessarily need a three credit political science course. 

The three credits or one credit can be used for both the political science major and minor in the subfields of American government or international politics. The course can also be used to fulfill the "Crime and Public Policy" area requirement for the Crime, Psychology, and Public Policy certificate. And students in all majors can use the course to fulfill GS general education requirements. Some majors will allow the course to fulfill other specific requirements. The course and trip are open to students in all majors. There is no prerequisite.

In Washington our group will stay at the Virginian Suites hotel (www.virginiansuites.com). The hotel is located in Arlington, VA, just across the Potomac River from Washington, and is a brief walk from a Washington Metro (subway) stop. Each room in the hotel contains two queen-sized beds, a pull out sofa bed, a full kitchen, television, furniture, private bathroom, and closet space. A chartered bus will transport students between campus and Washington.

The cost for the trip, per student, for 8 nights stay in the hotel and the bus transportation to Washington, will be $525 for up to 20 students who stay 3 to room (by utilizing the sofa-bed). Students who stay two to a room, or who sign up after the first 20 students, will need to pay more. The low cost of the week in Washington is thanks to financial support from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Endowment Fund and from the Office of the Penn State Behrend Senior Associate Dean for Research and Outreach. In addition, Ron Ridgley, a Penn State Behrend political science alumnus, has donated funds to cover some transportation costs and the costs of places that charge a fee for tours or briefings.

Students will also be responsible for their own food and incidental expenses while in Washington, including subway tickets. Students will be able to eat meals cheaply in their rooms if they prefer by using the kitchens present in each room. We will generally go to lunch at area food courts. Students should plan on bringing or having available approximately $200 in personal spending money. ATM bank machines are available at the hotel and throughout Washington. Penn State students registered full-time in Spring 2017 will incur no additional tuition costs for the course or trip.

Brochures with a full explanation of the trip are available at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences office (170 Kochel). To register for the trip and course, students must submit a non-refundable deposit in the form of cash, check, money order, or credit card in the amount of $150 to Penn State University, along with a completed course registration form, course fee form, emergency contact form, and background information form, to Jackie May in the School of H&SS Office, 170 Kochel, by December 1, 2016. The forms are available from Dr. Speel or the H&SS School Office.

The $150 will serve as a non-refundable deposit to reserve a space on the trip. The remaining cost of the trip will be due to Jackie May by January 26, 2017. 

Photos from previous trips can be found below.

For more information about the trip and course, pick up a copy of the brochure, or email Dr. Speel (rws15@psu.edu) with any questions.

Photos from Spring Break in Washington 2015

Students gathers in Washington DC.   Students gathers in Washington DC.

(left) Penn State Behrend students with Ryerson University students at the National Archives
(right) Penn State Behrend and Ryerson University students at the White House North Portico after a White House tour​

Students gathers in Washington DC.   Students gathers in Washington DC.

(left) Penn State Behrend and Ryerson University students meet the Latvian Ambassador to the United States, Andris Razans, at the Latvian Embassy​. 
(right) Penn State Behrend and Ryerson University students meet with Steve Scully, senior executive producer and political editor at C-SPAN, and an Erie native.

Students also posted about the 2015 Washington, D.C. trip on social media using the hashtag #BehrendinDC.  


Photos from Spring Break in Washington 2013

DC Trip   Dc trip

(left) Our group with Senator Bob Casey in the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda
​(right) Students meet with Senator Pat Toomey at his office conference room.

DC Trip   DC Trip

(left) Students meet with Representative Mike Kelly in the House Ways and Means Committee Room.
(right) Our group with Representative Glenn Thompson on the Capitol Steps

DC Trip 2   DC Trip 1   

(left) Our group at the front entrance to the Bulgarian Embassy
(right) Students in front of the Spirit of Haida Gwaii sculpture at the Canadian Embassy

DC Trip   DC Trip

(left) Students stand under the flags of the Organization of American States.
(right) Students visit the Albert Einstein Memorial.

Photos from Spring Break in Washington 2011

   Marla Whitney

(left) Zane Walter at the entrance to Ford's Theatre. 
(right) Marla Whitney asks the Pentagon to give peace a chance.

Library of Congress   Phil English

(left) Students looking up at the Library of Congress. 
(right) Students listen to former Congressman Phil English (left) and alumnus and USAFMC Executive Director Pete Weichlein (right).

Gallery Passes   White house

(left) Marla Whitney, Caley Yakemowicz, and Kacie Scheuer show off their Senate Gallery passes. 
(right) Alex Joyal, Maya Hoffman, Ashley Tidd, and Jason Grossman in front of the White House.

OAS flags

Group photo below all the Organization of American States flags.