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Students Soak Up Scholarship, Sun at SIS Summer Program

By Annie Lyon, CAS/MA '03

Students from the 2009 Washington Community of Scholars program pose with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Students from the 2009 Washington Community of Scholars program pose with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and students are paying close attention in Professor Eve Bratman’s “Global Environmental Politics” class, listening to a guest speaker from USAID discuss indigenous and protected areas in South America. The students ask questions about shipping the timber to other countries and how the elevation gradient in the Amazon yields certain types of raw materials. All in all, it seems like a typical college class.

Except the class is taking place in July. And the students aren’t in college.

Welcome to the Washington Community of Scholars (WCOS) program, run jointly by the School of International Service (SIS) and the Washington Semester Program.

WCOS allows teens to take professor-taught college-level courses (which can be counted toward college credit) and be mentored by current AU students. This summer’s classes include “Breaking News: Journalism and Media,” “Criminal Justice and Forensics: An Inside Look,” and “Washington Insiders: Behind the Scenes of U.S. Politics.”

Dr. Peter Howard, director of the WCOS, enthuses over the hands-on aspect of the three-week program. “The WCOS students truly get to see ideas in action—whether it’s a conflict resolution simulation, listening to a former ambassador, touring a green-building site, or visiting the State Department for a discussion with AU Alums on current foreign policy issues,” he says. Thus, students in “Worlds Apart, Worlds Together: Conflict, Culture, and Cooperation,” taught by Professor John Kelley, might have a speaker visit their class in the morning and simulate peace talks after lunch.
Along with the academic side of the WCOS, the students have workshops with representatives from AU’s different offices: one day, a résumé-writing clinic with the Career Center, and the next, a meeting with University librarians to learn about the newest research software.

But not all parts of the program are educational. Residential students supplement their experience with DC-wide activities such as community service programs, sightseeing trips and Nationals baseball games, and events closer to home, like ice cream socials, movie nights, and the Olympics-style “Scholar Games.”

The students note that the program offers them more than just college credit; they all agree that the program helps them fine-tune their study habits, learn a bit more about their chosen summer field, and decide if Washington, DC is the best place for them to attend college.

Howard commented on the dual benefits of the WCOS program; many attendees already have an interest in AU, and, as a bonus, get to see what a college atmosphere is like: “Most of our students come to WCOS already interested in AU, and they plan to apply here in the fall. Just last month, as new student orientation had all the incoming freshmen playing games on the Quad, I ran into a program alum from last year’s group who will be a freshman in August.  He couldn’t have been happier to be here, and that started with the WCOS.”