Penn Arts & Sciences Logo
Events, alumni networking, courses, and internships for Penn students on campus and in D.C.

Course Details

Fall 2020 Penn in Washington Courses

*Due to COVID, all Penn in Washington courses will be delivered online in fall 20. All students may register for any of the PIW courses as they would for any other PSCI course.


PSCI 330-301 Preparing for Policy Work

Dr. Deirdre Martinez

Fridays, 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Designed to complement a policy internship, this two credit course will focus on content and skills that are likely to be useful in typical Washington offices. Students will develop literacy on the most pressing policy topics and will work on writing and presentation skills. All students will participate in a virtual DC-based internship for at least ten hours a week. The course is composed of mostly asynchronous modules with a few synchronous meetings. There is significant coursework and more regular meeting times over the first month of semester, providing preparation for internships and then allowing more time for internships once the semester is underway. Students will also need to spend time before the semester begins securing their internship. I strongly encourage students to email me as soon as they register for the course.


 PSCI 398-301 Power in American Politics

Miguel Rodriguez

Tuesdays, 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Checks and balances are a fundamental principle of American government, but how does each branch of government exert its influence over the other branches? And how do non-government actors – the press, the people – likewise exert their influence and act as a check on the power of government? How does anything get done? PSCI 398-302 will explore these questions by looking beyond the theoretical, hearing directly from people who have worked on the frontlines of policymaking and politics in Washington. They will share their firsthand experiences and impart lessons learned about how power is truly exercised. Past guest speakers have included current and former White House officials, congressional staff, members of the press, pundits, and a who’s who of policy advocates.


PSCI 398-302 International Policymaking in the Contemporary Era

Joshua Blumenfeld

Thursdays, 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm

The Trump Presidency has profoundly shifted America’s role in the world and the way in which key institutions of foreign policy making are staffed and positioned to advance America’s interests. The ascent of extreme nationalists, and nationalism, in other power centers in the world, along with growing distrust in government and public institutions, may have marked the close of the two-decade post 9/11 era. Indeed, the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the ways in which actors across the international spectrum have responded (or failed to respond) has led many to question the assumptions inherent in the post-9/11 international order, and perhaps, has marked the beginning of a new era of competition, a return to great-power politics, and the diminishing power of traditional actors, systems, and ideals on the global stage. The implications for American foreign policy are profound. This course will provide students with an in-depth, practical analysis of foreign policy and foreign policy making, with a view from Washington. It will also provide a baseline global literacy, through the lens of emerging ideas, institutions, interests, and actors, and focus on a framework for understanding shifts already underway in how Washington views the world. We will utilize less traditional resources, and instead focus on practical and “real-world” course material as well as less traditional instruction methods – utilizing and analyzing the sources and resources that policy makers in Washington rely upon. These include long-form journalism, official government documents, hearings and Congressional debate, think tank products, and news sources. Students will have the opportunity to engage with a variety of guest-speakers, all of whom have held senior official and non-governmental roles in American foreign policy making and influencing. Guest speakers will provide unique insight into their own experiences at the highest levels of foreign policy making and advocacy, and offer guidance as to how to pursue careers in foreign policy, national security, and international development. In the past, guest speakers have included: Former Deputy Secretaries of State William Burns and Heather Higginbottom; Executive Director of the ONE Campaign; Former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department; Former Ambassadors, Senior Professional Staff from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, former Assistant Secretary of Population, Refugees, and Migration, among others.



All faculty are policy experts in their field who capitalize on their impressive networks to introduce you to an array of fascinating D.C. insiders. While the courses are rostered as Penn political science courses and mirror the rigor of a PSCI course you might take on campus, they are less theoretical and more practical. Written assignments are similar to what you might be expected to produce for an employer in Washington, and oral and written communication skills are emphasized. All classes encourage a high degree of student interaction and engagement with speakers and faculty. There is a full week break at approximately the 12th week of the program, after completion of the ten week internship period. This falls on Thanksgiving in the fall and in late March/early April in the spring. Note that semester start and end dates and breaks may not be the same as on campus.

From recent students:

  •  PIW made me a very strong student in my major; I became a better writer and was able to apply what I was learning in my more theoretical classes on campus to the real policy process.
  •  My policy proposal that I wrote on US strategies in the Northern Triangle helped frame my thesis in poli sci and my final paper for Josh’s class helped kickstart my desire to be an international lawyer, so it helped my future law school academics. 
  •  My work and PIW research topic informed my senior thesis and my experience at AEI led me to work for a think tank now that I have graduated.
  •  During my time in DC, I focused on foreign policy as part of my semester-long research into the entities and structures that restrict and enable a wide range of operations in the policymaking realm. As a result, I gained an in-depth understanding of the various topics of foreign policy. In particular, I became very intrigued by the concept of international trade and its implications on the countless agreements/treaties/interactions that bring different governments together to maintain a strong global economy. Now that I am back on campus, I want to take my interest to the next level by embarking on a research project that involves addressing some of the most complicated issues related to the topic. Because most of the discussions I had in DC and the think tank events I attended focused on the dangerous implications of the lack of a strong legal framework to ensure fair and equitable trade in the wake of the technological revolution, I hope to contribute to the important discussions surrounding this topic.
  •  As part of my semester I did a lot of work and research on Medicaid and work requirements. I am planning on now making this the topic of my honors thesis. In addition, I now realize that I might want to pursue a career in health policy at the community level instead of the global level, which is a huge revelation. 
  •  My internship was with the Department of Justice, Office of Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices which litigated cases related to illegal immigration-related discrimination in the context of employment law. My experience informed my decision to write about immigration in my PIW semester research topic which was about E-Verify. My political science thesis would end up also being about immigration, specifically about the constitutionality of two executive actions issued by the Obama Administration: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the subsequent, but struck down, Deferred Action for the Parents of Americans (DAPA). My PIW experience cemented my interest in immigration and positioned me to start thinking about what my thesis would ultimately be. 
  •  Students who do the PIW semester come back with an appreciation for the kind of writing that is most used in DC, ie. memos, op-eds, etc. Taking the opportunity to bridge the gap between academic and policy writing is immensely helpful.
  •  The professors at PIW are experts in their field and had wonderful networks they reached out to for speaker events who enriched conversations in the classroom. PIW coursework offers a unique curriculum in Political Science because content is more pragmatic/practical and hands-on, it's a nice complement to the strong theoretical coursework we receive back at Penn's campus.  Not only do the professors support and challenge PIW students academically, they are also a wonderful resource for professional development.
  •  PIW immensely impacted how I would complete my final year at Penn in a positive way from my thesis topic to classes I would take and it better prepared me to figuring out what I wanted to do after Penn. I'd recommend PIW to anyone interested in policy or DC.