The Washington Center: A Critical Review
The Washington Center: A Critical Review
The Washington Center is without a doubt an excellent opportunity for anyone who has a chance to attend. It is worth noting, however, that not all experiences are going to be the same. What follows is a critical review of TWC from the perspective of both a STS program student and now, former intern.
If you may recall my first post, I came by The Washington Center almost as an afterthought – the result of a last-semester hurrah to help me choose a career. I took a risk, abandoning my background in American History in order to pursue an opportunity in the Science, Technology, and Society program, not because I felt it had better career potential, but because it was something I knew I wanted to do, even if I couldn’t fully explain why. My elation at both my acceptance into the program as well as at my internship site was beyond describing. It felt good to be an “outsider” – a liberal arts student entering the scientific world. Unfortunately, I was setting myself up for a little disappointment.
My biggest critique regarding my Washington Center experience was that when comparing all the individual elements – internship, class, programming, and civic engagement – there was little to no correlation between them. My internship was my direct introduction into a more scientific job – conducting research and translating that information for a diverse audience. In order to support that, I had enrolled in the “Issues in Science Policy” course, but unfortunately, it was cancelled before the semester even began since there weren't enough students enrolled. As a result, I was placed in a course that, while intellectually engaging and taught by a highly qualified professor, was not directly related to my career goals. Furthermore, the STS programming was haphazard and not always relevant. This was not because of a lack of effort on behalf of our program advisor, but because the science discipline is such a broad field that it is impossible to find subject matter that is universally relevant to everyone in the program. Even though we could design our own, the complete lack of a scientifically related TWC sponsored civic engagement project also seemed to be more of a slight rather than a probable oversight. My point is this: I feel that we did not receive adequate instruction on the interaction between science, policymaking, businesses, and non-profits. Students in other programs, particularly political leadership and international affairs, had a much more encompassing experience than I did. Just because the Science, Technology, & Society is the smallest program – it does not mean we should be shortchanged in the quality of our overall experience.
Still, all my critiques aside, I cannot complain too much. I came to DC as an average student with mediocre grades in a desperate search to find a career path; I am leaving as a fully qualified park ranger bound for my new job in New York City. My coworkers, my program advisor, and my course professor all went out of their way in order to help me succeed, and for that I am extremely grateful. Even if my experience was something that wasn’t entirely encompassing and even if at times I felt frustrated – I would still do it all over again because it forced me to adapt to unexpected situations, conquer new tasks, and develop novel solutions to previously unconsidered problems. It may not be the most quantifiable measure of achievement, but I still contend that these are the truest measures of accomplishment. I took a big chance coming to Washington, and it paid off in a big way.
The Rock Creek Park gang.
My supervisor "passing the hat" to the newest Park Ranger.
Ranger Tony being a goofball. (And maybe me too.)
To everyone who has been reading this blog from the beginning, I want to thank you for your dedication and your support. To all future Washington Center interns, I congratulate you on your acceptance and wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. Remember: use my experiences as a guide, not a rule. Your experience will be defined by your willingness to explore, discover, and persevere. You will not be expected to know everything and don’t be afraid of making a few mistakes – it’s all part of the process. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.”
Until next time.