Four students sit at a table in the Hopkins Bloomberg Center.

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Undergraduate education

New program gives Hopkins students a gateway to D.C.

The Hopkins Semester D.C. program allows undergrads to pursue internships and independent research while living in the nation's capital

Sophomore Isabelle Jouve dreams of pursuing a career on Capitol Hill. As a public health studies major at Johns Hopkins University, she's spent her past year and a half studying health policy in hopes of someday building a career in Washington, D.C.

Now, thanks to the first-ever Hopkins Semester D.C., Jouve is getting a head start.

"They're offering a really unique chance for students to live and work in D.C.," she said. "I get to do something that I dreamed of doing after graduation while I'm still in undergrad."

"I get to do something that I dreamed of doing after graduation while I'm still in undergrad."
Isabelle Jouve

The Hopkins Semester D.C. is a new study-abroad alternative that brings Hopkins undergraduates to the heart of the nation's capital. Open to all students pursuing a major or minor from university's Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, it offers a variety of learning opportunities both in the classroom and in the field.

The program is hosted in the new Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center at 555 Pennsylvania Ave., which officially opened its doors in the fall. Situated blocks from the U.S. capitol, the building contains programming from all Hopkins divisions, allowing students, researchers, and faculty to collaborate in new and exciting ways.

"With Hopkins consolidating our spaces in D.C., it was time to connect the undergrads," explained Lauren Reynolds, director of the Hopkins Semester D.C. program.

The Hopkins Semester's inaugural cohort is made up of 15 undergraduates. In addition to regular classes, all HSDC students will end the semester with internship and independent research experience, as well as new networking connections.

Four adults sit at a table, looking at a single laptop screen. Behind them, a mounted TV reads

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Jouve, for instance, decided to intern for U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland. Her classmate, junior Alexis Holewinski, is working for Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

"I thought the semester was a really good way to customize your study while still focusing on your core major," said Holewinski, who majors in international studies. "Sen. Duckworth specifically is on the Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so it's a really good fit in terms of getting to work on my interest in policy."

Students aren't limited to internships on the Hill. Other members of the cohort are spending their semesters with lobbying groups, federal agencies, and nonprofits across the city. When mixed with the countless options for independent research, this means that no two Hopkins Semester students will have quite the same experience.

"Each student tailors the semester to their specific interests and goals," explained Jouve, whose independent research focuses on the impact of reproductive health education during substance-use disorder treatment. "This program has placed me at the forefront of Hopkins' undergraduate exploration."

A college student fist-bumps Barbara Mikulski.

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

HSDC students also attend weekly talks with politicians and policy experts. These sessions allow the undergraduates to consider alternate career paths and learn more about the many roles that contribute to the D.C. policy scene. This semester's speakers include former Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Vassilis Coutifaris, senior officer of the European Union delegation to the U.S.

To help navigate these experiences, each student is paired with an alumni mentor from their intended career field. These mentors can serve as advisers, sounding boards, networking connections, or whatever else their mentee needs to get acclimated.

"We have some really wonderful alumni who have stepped up to help students integrate into D.C.," said Reynolds, who is a Hopkins alum herself. "They were paired very intentionally."

This semester's HSDC classes all fall under the theme of "Global Affairs and Policy." Future semesters will follow a "faculty-led" model, with professors taking a more active role in curriculum planning.

Three college students sit in class, listening.

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

"The themes are going to be coming from the faculty and faculty proposals," Reynolds explained. "Professors can think about what classes they would want to teach in D.C."

Fall 2024 will feature two such themes:

Both themes will incorporate aspects of the 2024 presidential election, taking full advantage of the program's location.

Reynolds expressed particular excitement for the "Humanities in the Public Sphere" theme, which will help expand the program beyond the social sciences.

"While our first theme and themes in general are always going to have connections to the world of policy, we are also a humanities-friendly program," she said. "We're really excited, especially with future semesters, to build with the humanities majors and the humanities faculty and bring them in in really intentional ways."

A group of 18 people smile for a photo in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Students can learn more about the program and how to apply on the website of the Global Education Office. Applications for the Fall 2024 semester are open through March 31. The program is open to all students pursuing a major or minor from the Krieger School.

Professors and alumni who are interested in future teaching or mentorship opportunities should reach out to Reynolds. Teaching positions are open to Kreiger School professors or joint appointees between different schools.

Now halfway through the semester, Jouve is eager to praise the program. The inaugural cohort has gotten the full D.C. experience, she says, complete with mocktail networking events and a Washington Capitals game at Capital One Arena.

"The Hopkins Semester D.C. program provides its students with the ultimate experiential learning opportunity," Jouve said. "[It] shapes its students into young professionals living, working, and learning in D.C."