When Public Health student Grace Hodson visited her friend Tom Coulter, in D.C. last summer while he was participating in the Kinder Scholar D.C. Summer Program, she fell in love with the city. After that trip, Tom and another friend (and fellow Public Health classmate) Jane Kielhofner convinced her to apply for the program herself.
According to the website, the 10-week program combines coursework on the United States’ constitutional history with an academically-based internship in order to deepen the scholars’ understanding of both the philosophy and function of democracy in America. The Kinder Scholars live with one another in “one of D.C.’s most culturally vibrant neighborhoods” in apartments paid for by the program (including a $1,000 stipend for food and other expenses).
Throughout the summer, Kinder Scholars take one course on constitutional democracy that’s taught by a different MU professor each week. Grace says the topics this past summer ranged from “Super heroes of History in the U.S.” to the ways in which agencies like the CIA function under the executive branch of our government. On Fridays, the professor from that week’s lecture led the students on a field trip related to the topic they had discussed the night before.
“My favorite aspect of the program were the Friday field trips,” Grace says, “They were all places that I would not have been able to visit on my own and we often got insider tours since many of our professors had connections to the sites. It was awesome to connect these excursions with what we had been learning in class. It was also great way to wind down after a long week at our internships and spend time with the other scholars!”
Grace’s cohort visited the CIA, Frederick Douglass’s house, Mount Vernon, the Library of Congress, and more.
After being admitted to the program, the Kinder Scholars are required to secure an internship that they will work at least 25 hours a week during their time in D.C. Grace worked at George Washington University as a research intern in their psychology department on a team that covers topics in HIV/AIDS. Her team focused a lot on intersectionality among the population of black men living in the D.C./Philadelphia area. Grace’s responsibilities included qualitative coding, editing manuscripts, and creating a poster of previous team research for the HIV/AIDS summit in Amsterdam.
Much of Grace’s work didn’t require her to physically be in the office.
“My internship taught me how to work remotely, which was something I had never done before, and it taught me how to be self-motivated, which is so great to put on a resume these days. I was also able to network and have several new links to D.C. for future career endeavors.”
Some of her favorite places to get work done outside of the office were outside on the mall in the sculpture garden and the Library of Congress.
Grace says the internship experience combined with the political science and history topics covered in the course make this an invaluable experience for all students, but especially health science students studying public health, health and wellness, or leadership and policy.
“Healthcare is one of the most important issues for our government, and when it comes to elections, it is the number one topic that people pay attention to. Understanding how health agencies function under the government and how the policies effect our healthcare is crucial to helping patients.”
Through a connection from one of her former teachers, Grace was also able to meet Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which was an unforgettable experience. In general, beyond her internship and the course, Grace says just living in such a political area teaches you a lot, and you’re surrounded by people who you don’t necessarily agree with on everything but you can still learn from them.
“Another cool thing about D.C. is you meet people who really know the politics, and what’s really going on,” she says, “I feel like I came back more politically aware, and more likely to look at both sides of everything.”