Learning and Leading in Washington D.C.

Since 2001, Concordia has been sending students to our nation’s capital to take part in the Lutheran College Washington Semester internship program.

Dr. Edward Hasecke during a campus visit

In October, Dr. Edward Hasecke, the dean and executive director of the Lutheran College Washington Consortium, came to Concordia to speak with administrators and students about Concordia’s LCWS program. While spending a semester in Washington, students complete an internship, take classes, and get a close look at the city itself.

While on campus, Hasecke sat down to speak about the benefits of studying in the nation’s capital.

Why should a student study in Washington?

The internship experience is important and valuable, and it's the main backbone of our program. I like to say that we provide students with their first mentored job search. We work with students to learn how to search for opportunities. We work with them to revise resumes and cover letters. Students will then apply to many different internship opportunities. We practice Zoom interviews with them as well. Often, they have to negotiate multiple offers at the end of the process. I think we provide a lot of opportunities for students to see what it's going to be like after graduation.

A secondary motivation is to see what it’s like to live in a big city. D.C. has three identities. D.C. is the nation's capital. D.C. is a vibrant, multicultural city, and D.C. is a professional network. We work hard to help students dig deep into each of those identities. Of course, we'll do some of the touristy things, but we only do that with a lot of value-added content around it. We show students the best parts of D.C. and the challenging parts of D.C. We do a lot of liberal arts, whole-person, community-based thinking. The things students study in school often seem like abstract concepts, whether that is gentrification, poverty, healthcare issues, or homelessness. These issues are in front of you in D.C. You can't help but engage with it and be challenged by how you're called to make a difference in the world.

The program’s mission statement says that you work to prepare students to become active and engaged citizens of the world. Can you explain a little bit about how you see that in the students that come and study in Washington?

Most of the students intern in nonprofit organizations and those who are working in the government do so because they're motivated by some desire to see a change in the world. Our students want to make the world and the future something better than it is right now. As a result, they find communities here. D.C. is home to more than 40,000 nonprofit organizations. If you care about something, there's a nonprofit organization that cares about it, too.

A lot of political science students take advantage of this program. What would you say to a student who has a different major who is on the fence about if they want to go or not?

Obviously, D.C. is a place for political science, pre-law, and international relations students, but D.C. is also a city of museums. D.C. is a city of theatre. D.C. is a city of sports teams. No matter your major, there are nonprofit organizations and museums that are doing things that you care about. There are just all these fabulous opportunities available for students regardless of major. The federal government’s there, but that’s not all that the city offers.

This program is a consortium of 13 Lutheran schools. Can you speak a little bit on the Lutheran tradition that's present throughout the program?

All the schools have a historical basis of being institutions that were founded by the Lutheran Church, and different schools lean into that identity at different levels. However, every single school has in its mission statement something about the purpose of higher education being about engaging your world and making it a better place. When I talk to you about the D.C. experience, we're an internship program, but we would not be a Lutheran program if we didn't have the D.C. experience where we were really engaging with the community in which you're making your home for a semester. You need to learn about that community and be challenged by that community and informed by that community. That's the Lutheran part of us.

Can you speak about the time you’ve spent here at Concordia?

I've loved your campus. The students have also been very engaged in classes, asking all kinds of good questions. The Pre-Law Association hosted that event last night that had a great turnout with just so much excitement. It's clear that this is a program that people know about and one they're proud of. That obviously warms my heart. I love that the transformative work that is happening in D.C. and those experiences that people are having are making their way back here and hopefully inspiring other Cobbers to spend a semester with us in D.C.