Dawgs on the Hill
A Home Base
At any given time, there are thousands of undergraduate students from across the U.S. interning in our nation’s capital. They work for federal agencies, congressional offices, think tanks, museums, and law firms, to name a few opportunities.
Many internships don’t pay, and unless students attend D.C.-area universities, they’re generally on their own to find a place to live in the high-rent area.
UGA’s Washington Semester Program creates a simpler path for students to intern in the District. UGA is one of the few non-D.C.-based universities offering housing for students. Delta Hall, a three-story residential and learning center, is a 10-minute walk from the Capitol Building. The Colonial-style brick building serves as a home base for students to live, study, and share their experiences with fellow UGA students.
And UGA’s dedicated Washington Semester Program helps students make the most of this opportunity by providing internship coaching, networking opportunities, and classes that challenge them to learn and grow from their experiences.
History on the Hill
Students spend a lot of time at Delta Hall, which has been the home base for UGA activity in Washington since 2015. But the university has had a presence in the capital for more than 25 years.
It’s only gotten stronger over time.
The purchase and renovation of Delta Hall were funded by private gifts to the UGA Foundation; not a single state dollar was used on the facility.
Allison Ausband ABJ ’83,a senior vice president at Delta Air Lines and the current UGA Foundation chair, helped secure a $5 million grant from the Delta Air Lines Foundation to support UGA in Washington. Delta Hall was named in honor of that gift.
Interning in Washington
Since it is very different than just being a student, the Washington Semester Program staff aims to select students who’ve shown a strong work ethic.
“We want to be sure that every time someone interacts with a University of Georgia student, they’re impressed by them, that they feel like we are representing the best of all students across the country,” says Don DeMaria, director of the Washington Semester Program.
Twice a week, students meet for required courses taught in Delta Hall. One is a weekly seminar that brings guests to talk about their careers and answer students’ questions. Many speakers are UGA alumni, like Leigh Hildebrand JD ’00, the U.S. Senate’s senior assistant parliamentarian.
“There’s a reason why we have a seminar, and one of the biggest is to get the students all together once a week to talk about their experiences, share their success, meet someone who has had a career on Capitol Hill, and learn from that person and their experiences,” says DeMaria.
Building a Network
Over the years, the program has helped expand the university’s reach in the capital.
Today, a vast network of UGA alumni work in Washington. DeMaria estimates that at least 80 Bulldogs, many program alumni, are involved in activities each year at Delta Hall and beyond. Some come to share their career paths and experiences; others introduce students to people of interest.
At the center of all that activity is DeMaria, who has been a constant in UGA’s activities in Washington. Though not a UGA alumnus, DeMaria is a walking Rolodex of Georgia connections, and he’s not shy about introducing them to students with shared interests.
For some students, networking opportunities are nearly as important as their internship experiences.
Michael Shinholster AB ’23, who interned for Rep. Buddy Carter, likens networking in Washington to “drinking from a firehose.” He was constantly surprised by the extensive UGA connections in Washington.
“I had someone stop me when I was on my way to work because I was wearing a Georgia sweatshirt,” he says. “He gave me his business card and told me he was from the class of ’97.”
Shinholster has plenty of time to make other connections in Washington. He accepted a position in Carter’s office running the representative’s internship program.
Several scholarship funds help students lower the costs of living in Washington for a semester.
- Chambliss Fellowship
- Coyle Scholarship
- Morehead Scholarship
- Pennell Scholarship
- Russell Scholarship
In addition, the UGA Foundation provides each student in the program with a $500 scholarship.
Donate to supporting student scholarships to the Washington Semester Program at: give.uga.edu/wsp
Written by Aaron Hale
Photos by Dorothy Kozlowski, UGA Marcomm
Video by Corey O’Quinn and Cade Massey, UGA Marcomm