Justice & Law
November 19, 2018 | Hey y'all! You already know me, so let’s skip the pleasantries and just dive right on in.
Last week I started the whole week out by waking up at 2:30am for the chance to breathe the same air as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And it was absolutely worth it. Some of my classmates from my Public Law and Society course and myself managed to get ourselves to the Supreme Court by 3:30am so we could be the first to stand in line (outside, in the cold) just to be granted seating for the Supreme Court hearings that were going on that day. I managed to be lucky number five and was able to hear the oral arguments for Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den Inc. and Garza v. Idaho.
If the first hearing sounds familiar it may be that you have seen the recent headlines about a Yakama Nation chairman being barred from entry to the Supreme Court hearing due to his headdress. The chairman refused to remove his headdress and had to wait downstairs for the duration of the hearing. My classmates and I saw him, he had waited outside with us for a bit of time and we had seen him speaking with security guards in the downstairs area of the Supreme Court. It’s a very strange feeling, having been present at an event where history is being made and headlines are being written. I can’t help but repeatedly be in awe whenever I hear someone else speaking about it because I was there.
My amazing week continued with a class tour of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building with the rest of my Criminology and Justice peers. My interest in law was initially sparked by the desire to become an Intelligence Analyst for the FBI, so learning more about the agency and the work I could potentially be doing in the future as an analyst was absolutely invigorating and inspiring. This was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, an insider’s glance at something I had been dreaming of doing since I was in high school. I was up close and personal with the very thing I will be able to use my education towards, it is the most surreal feeling in the world to experience your dream in person.
Natasha and I spent our weekend at (you guessed it) museums. We were especially blown away by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. This free(!) museum is interactive, colorful, unique, and constantly changing. Everything about the art in that building is fluid and interpretive and absolutely stunning. Talented people really blow me away. Like you honestly just wake up in the morning and are able to create something so meaningful and impactful like that? Amazing. Natasha and I both admired the abstract work of artist Mark Bradford. He had taken original imagery of the Battle of Gettysburg and made it abstract. His work often addresses socio-political issues and art history, and what it seemed to be saying to me was “learn from your history, America”.
Which, speaking of politics, the midterm election recently took place, and as you all know I have been volunteering on the campaign for a gentleman running for Ward 3 council. Natasha and I spent the evening of November 6th traveling with him to polling locations and talking with voters who wanted to learn a little more about the man challenging a 12 year incumbent. Afterwards his amazing team of volunteers all met up at a local eatery, Wingo’s Glover Park (which is SO good y’all, 10/10 would recommend you check them out), to celebrate a race well ran. As with life, you can’t win them all, and while Petar may not have gained seat on Ward 3 council this go-around he certainly shook things up for the members of this community. A bright, eager, and brilliant young man, I know his big ideas will make their way into fruition someday, and when they do I cannot wait to say that I’ve been on his team since the very beginning. I am so proud to have been able to work alongside someone I know will move mountains, and while we may not have won, it was an incredible Election Party full of so many new friends- and we had so much still to celebrate.
My days continued to breeze by and on Thursday my boyfriend and two of my closest friends came to visit me right here in DC. I decided to introduce them to one of my new favorite places to eat (Hello, Wingo’s Glover Park) and we spent the weekend exploring the District. The colorful umbrellas that had once hung in City Center are gone, and the location is now home to festive hanging snowflakes that really changed the entire atmosphere of the location into something very festive for the upcoming winter season. We are coming up on such a magical time of the year and DC really does it up for the holidays. I am so glad I was able to experience some of it with my best friends.
These past two weeks may have been the best ones yet, and there is still so much more yet to come. While this is my last blog entry there is still so much I will still be up to out here in the District. Just this next week I will be visiting the Supreme Court once more for a tour and meeting with the Supreme Court Clerk, and I will also be touring the Arlington jail. The fun doesn’t end just because the blog does. I hope you have gained some insight into Washington, DC, I am so happy you were all able to tag along with me through some of my greatest adventures here in the Washington Semester Program. Until we meet again- thanks, y’all.
Justice & Law
November 5, 2018 | Hello again, friends! Guess who participated in a police ride-along, took a midterm, visited Artechouse, went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, volunteered on her favorite future Ward 3 council member’s campaign, went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of the American Indian, attended a Brookings event on police brutality, and went to a Halloweekend costume dinner with her roommate and friend? You already know who it is, so let me tell you all about it.
Last Tuesday for class I participated in a police ride along here in Washington, D.C.. A great part of my education as a forensic psychology major has been focused on the need for betterment in the criminal justice system as a whole, and what we can do to help solve problems on a public health perspective rather than a criminal justice perspective. I found that I spent a majority of my time in that patrol car contemplating the problems that I was seeing. I truly believe that I have the education and the power to make a difference, and the more I learn about the ways our criminal justice system works the more I am inspired to fix it.
I carried those ideas with me a lot this week and the theme of mistreatment continued in a lot of what I did. A step back into history in museums such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Museum of the American Indian all speak to the great injustices our country has been a part of. We did not help those fleeing Hitler’s tyranny by offering sanctuary until long after lives had been lost, we are responsible for horrible injustices in history such as the slave trade and Jim Crow. We pushed Native Americans out of their lands and through tremendous mistreatment with marches such as the Trail of Tears. We are not a perfect nation, and it is important to learn lessons from our past so that we may create a more equal society.
I was greatly appreciative to have attended the Brookings event live and in person for class. I am constantly honored to have the opportunity to gain knowledge through these experiences and I am so grateful to American University and my professors. The panel contained distinguished members of higher education, research, and police work who all talked about the importance of fixing something that is clearly broken. We are a society that is educated enough to know that the concept of not giving our officers - who continuously go through high stress ordeals - a mental health resource without fear of losing their job is not a system that works. Working in a law office that specializes in police brutality has taught me that there needs to be greater emphasis on education from all sides of the subject. There is still so much work to be done, our country’s laws are not perfect and together we can all work toward a more educated tomorrow.
I believe that is in part why I am so grateful to be working on the campaign of someone who I respect, who I believe is fighting wholeheartedly to bring change to Ward 3. I was drawn to Petar’s campaign due to his passion to update the curriculum in the public school system because that is where it starts. I believe that a proper education gives the members of our society the push they need to make well-informed decisions. From a sociological standpoint we can fix so many problems if only we took a step back understand the world around us. That ability to empathize begins at a young age by removing stigmas and biases, eliminating stereotypes, and teaching acceptance. School does so much more than simply teach you reading, writing, and arithmetic. It teaches you how to interact with your fellow human beings.
This is a strong reason I love art so much, no matter what median is used (be it music, paintings, dance, etc.) a person can convey their emotions through art, and emotions are what drives many people. If you learn to use your emotions and logic together you become an unstoppable force. That is why art has been used for as long as humans have existed to convey a message and teach a lesson. I am constantly in awe of those who can channel their talents to create something so meaningful. Together, Natasha and I visited Artechouse - the only gallery in D.C. that combines art and technology. The current display is New Nature by Marpi, and the entire exhibit is interactive. You are able to interact with a digital creature, play with coral, and walk through LED trees. It was the first time I have appreciated nature by playing with technology, I could not stop grinning ear to ear. I am not technologically savvy so the entire concept of that level of programming amazed me and I was completely in love with the lights, colors, and the talent required to make something like that. They also have a student discount ($12) and there is a fee if you use card so I recommend taking cash.
Halloweekend is ending tonight, and with Halloween being on a work night, Natasha, my roommate Helena, and I opted to go to a local eatery for their costumed dinner. Being from Texas, you can only imagine how picky I am about queso, but Mission absolutely made my day (now if only they served sweet tea).
These past two weeks have been affirming in my education and everything that I have learned. I am proud of my education and my desire to enact change. Being here in the District for a semester has solidified my choice to go to law school, and one of the panelists from the Brookings forum (Sociologist Rashawn Ray) has inspired me to consider getting a PhD in sociology sometime after law school.
My hope for every one of you is that you use your passions to follow your dreams and make change in the field you love. My other hope is that you go vote in Nov. 6 midterm election, most places have begun early voting and a quick google search can tell you where to go. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Justice & Law
October 22, 2018 |
These past two weeks started off with a forum for Ward 3 council. As I mentioned last time, Natasha and I have started working on Petar Dmitchev’s campaign to become Ward 3 DC City Councilmember. Petar spoke eloquently at this forum, he answered all questions very straightforwardly, and everyone in that room could feel how much he cares about making this community a better place.
Natasha and I are both so proud to be a part of his campaign. Being able to volunteer on the political campaign for a man who is determined to make change is very encouraging. The more I learn about what it takes to become a politician the more excited I am to potentially follow in his footsteps. My internship advisor told me he genuinely hopes I become President someday, that with my enthusiasm for change and education he believes I would be the best person for the job - and I have to say I wouldn’t be opposed. Catch me on the 2036 ballot.
Now, what you actually came here to read about: I’ve been talking about it for weeks and it finally happened - I went to the Venetian Ball at the Italian Embassy! How many people can say they went to a ball at an embassy? I am in awe of everything I have been able to do just in the short amount of time that I have been in DC! The Italian Embassy is absolutely stunning, there was beautiful artwork all around the dance floor (I know what you’re thinking: “Jessica? Talking about art? Shocker.” But it was truly such a gorgeous setting). The ambiance of the embassy itself was soft and had a romantic renaissance feel to it, which was a stark contrast to the modern architecture of the Chinese Embassy I visited last month. My friends and I danced, took pictures, networked, and had tons of fun.
Two days after the ball was my first midterm, so I am one down and still have one yet to go. I felt quite confident on the first test, I felt my classes had prepared me well and I was able to recall the information with ease. Natasha and I celebrated the end of one midterm by visiting the Renwick Gallery where they had the entire upper floor exhibit dedicated to “No Spectators: the Art of Burning Man” which divulged the history and evolution of the annual desert event. The museum is free and the exhibit is interactive, beautiful, and informational; I would definitely recommend stopping by before the exhibit leaves in January of 2019. They are currently changing out the exhibit on the bottom floor and soon it will showcase “Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018” where artists depicted emotion and activism into their artwork- this show opens November 9 of this year.
Later in the week I turned in my law school applications. The lawyer who I work for agreed to be one of my letters of recommendation, and I am eternally grateful to have had a law professional recommend me to law school. The connections I am building here at AU are setting me up for a lifetime of success and I am anxious to hear back and decide where the next stop in my future will be. I just want to know already, the waiting game is killer.
Thankfully I was able to get my mind off of waiting this past Friday. Since it was fall break here at AU we didn’t have any classes (hence the reason I still have a midterm next week). Natasha and I took this opportunity to visit George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon. I was immensely impressed by the entire estate. I generally shy away from anything that requires money (we are in college, after all) but this was definitely worth the cost! For $20 you can wander the estate as much as you would like, get a tour of the house itself, read all the information on the different buildings, and there are two museums inside that offer a load of history. Both of us agreed that we definitely got our money’s worth at our first president’s house. Our favorite fun fact was that you could just arrive on someone’s doorstep uninvited in those days and be allowed to stay for free, and you could generally stay as long as you’d like because it was considered bad manners to ask when somebody would be leaving. Could you imagine just showing up at a former president’s house uninvited these days and being allowed to stay over for an average of 5 nights for free? It’s truly unfathomable.
The rest of the weekend has been just as exciting, I actually just got home from spending the evening at an alumni event for my home school, Tiffin University. I had was able to chat with two of my favorite professors, see some of my friends from The Washington Center, network with alumni from my school, and I even met an alumni from my brother fraternity!
My time here is whizzing past me and I know these next two weeks are going to fly by as well with all the things I have planned. And as always, I can’t wait to share it with y’all! Until next time!
Justice & Law
October 8, 2018 | This semester is absolutely flying by. My professor even reminded us that midterms start NEXT! WEEK! I can’t believe that my time here in Washington, DC is nearly half over. It seems like I just moved in last week.
I have been going nonstop since the last time you heard from me. If you heeded my advice from the last blog then you followed WSP’s Instagram (@WSPIntern) and saw all the amazing photos I shared with y’all about some of my adventures here in The District. If you didn’t follow along I suggest you go catch up, those posts are not ones you will want to miss out on.
But for the sake of our conversation, let’s go ahead and assume you all logged into Instagram early each morning, desperate to see what I had posted so you could properly start your day. First of all, thank you. I love my fans. And also you can clearly see that I have been having a blast visiting symposiums, embassies, and museums like crazy. However, there were a few things you weren’t privy to on Instagram (I can’t lay all my cards out at once, I have to keep y’all wanting more).
My Public Law & Society class was invited to a luncheon meet and greet for a young politician running for Ward 3 council here in DC, Petar Dimtchev. It was an opportunity to understand the politics and issues surrounding DC, and we were all very excited for a free lunch. My friend and fellow WSPer, Natasha, and I were so impressed by is education reform that we even signed up to be volunteers on his campaign.
Later that same day our class visited the Newseum, which was the most beautiful and meaningful experiences of my life. As the co-editor of my home university’s newspaper, The Tystenac, I have dedicated my college experience to the first amendment and being able to write about things going on in the world. The dedication and sacrifice of so many, just in order for people to hear what they need to hear was inspiring. I wrote an article on the experience for The Tystenac, so if you’re interested in reading a little bit more of what I have to say please feel free to check that out at tutystenac.com.
So all of that was just during Tuesday’s class. Friday’s Criminology & Justice class offered us a chance to attend the Prisoner and Re-entry Symposium, hosted by some of the nation’s leaders in prison reform. My major is forensic psychology, and this was absolutely everything I could have ever wanted and more. Suggestions on how to best serve the community, the district, and the nation were presented, and everything was coming from a public health perspective. The overcrowding of our nation’s jails and prisons is a serious problem, and it meant everything to me that I will one day soon be able to assist with this very important work.
This past weekend I was visited by my boyfriend, and I did my absolute best to squeeze in some of my favorite parts of DC into just a few short days. He got the hang of the metro pretty much immediately, and I was a little bit jealous at his natural public transportation using skills. While he was here I was able to talk him and Natasha into visiting the stunning Thomas Jefferson memorial with me (it is a little farther out than the rest of the memorials on the National Mall) and it is probably my favorite of all, simply due to its picturesque location. The Jefferson memorial also has a small museum underneath with a run-down on Jefferson’s history, as well as two (!) gift shops. (As you can see in the photos, Natasha and I are inside the memorial, looking off camera to a squirrel who was being hand fed by a tourist, until he decided he had enough. He then snatched the last peanut out of her hands, and took off across the memorial. It was adorable.)
Back in class, this past Tuesday we visited the Washington College of Law here at AU and listened to a panel of notable lawyers and law professors break down the upcoming docket for the Supreme Court. One of the death penalty cases they will be hearing about is counseled by attorney Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, the book we are reading for class. All of us have decided to attempt to get into one of the hearings, so stay tuned to hear all about how I woke up at 3am to stand in a line outside the Supreme Court with my classmates.
As I mentioned before, Natasha and I had signed up to volunteer with Petar’s campaign. Well, we met with him at Panera after class on Tuesday, and now you are reading the words of one of two social media campaign managers. So if you see a particularly poppin’ tweet from @PetarForward3 on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter then you might be able to guess who it is from.
The semester has been nonstop, and I absolutely love it. Next weekend I will be at the Italian Embassy for the Venetian Ball, plus I have midterms I was so kindly reminded about, so I suspect October won’t be slowing down anytime soon. I can’t wait to share with y’all everything else I am able to experience in Washington, D.C. Until next time!
Justice & Law
September 24, 2018 | Hey y'all! My name is Jessica, and I am a senior forensic psychology major at Tiffin University (Go Dragons!) in Tiffin, Ohio. I was born and raised in south Texas, so you can imagine that Washington, D.C. is a bit of a change for me. Even Tiffin is a small, sleepy town so I haven’t quite experienced living in a huge, metropolitan city quite like this before. I knew from the moment I enrolled at Tiffin that I wanted to participate in a Washington, D.C. exchange program, but it was one of my professors who specifically steered me toward the Washington Semester Program at AU and I am incredibly grateful for it.
As a forensic psychology major, my degree is a concentration within criminal justice, so I chose to be a part of the Justice & Law program here at AU. My biggest class only has 15 people in it and my professor knew my name by the end of the first week. I have only been attending classes here for three weeks and I am already so in love with this program.
My classes are full of fellow future attorneys (say that five times fast) and the discussions we have are enlightening. I have classmates from all over the world, and because of our differences in culture, language, and personal experiences we spend just as much time learning from one another as we do the curriculum. I am genuinely excited for class every day, I look forward to our discussions on the books we are reading, the topics we are debating, and the sites we are visiting. Every day I wake up knowing I am exactly where I am meant to be in this moment in time, and I cannot wait to share with you everything that is yet to come.
If you look at the WSP program anywhere on social media, they are constantly touting that AU uses “Washington, D.C. as their classroom” and they are not kidding. In the three weeks I have been here I have visited the National Mall, the National Archives, National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Natural History, The Phillips Collection, and the DEA Museum, all on the days I am not at my internship site in a local law office. Everything I am able to be involved with here in D.C. is only because I am apart of WSP. I am overwhelmingly appreciative to this program for everything I have been able to achieve thus far.
Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities- last week I had dinner at the Embassy of China. I am fairly certain I am still in shock that I, a mere college student, was in a room full of diplomats and government officials. When I arrived at the Embassy I was allowed to wander around, look in on the meeting rooms, and take as many pictures as I wanted. (At this point I believe my phones storage is about 50% the Embassy of China.) Soon after there was a panel of diplomats who spoke on American-Chinese relations and answered questions from the audience. My friend and fellow WSPer Lu and I were immensely impressed by the straightforward, honest, and respectful way everyone responded. Immediately following the panel was an “Oriental Wushu Culture-China Day” Wushu demonstration where students who train at a martial arts academy in China demonstrated their years of training and dedication in multiple martial arts displays. At the end of the curtain call, we were served a buffet of food cooked by the Embassy chef. I felt a tremendous amount of self-pride for eating the food with chopsticks, mostly because I had only learned how to use them the week before when I had lunch with my friends in Chinatown.
Unbelievably enough, this is not going to be my only Embassy experience, so be sure to keep up with my adventures. I would hate for you to miss out on all the details of the Venetian Ball being hosted by the Italian Embassy next month. My schedule is jam-packed with amazing opportunities just this next week even, and I can’t wait to share it all with you!
P.S. You’re going to want to be following the Washington Semester Program on Instagram (@WSPintern) because in the next couple weeks I will be doing an Instagram Takeover! Follow along with me on my daily commute via metro to the law office I am interning at, the sites around the District, and some of the wonderful restaurants I have stumbled upon.