Shelby Lynn Williams '25 outside the White House, Washington, D.C.

Around Cornell

News directly from Cornell's colleges and centers

Students live, learn, and intern on Capitol Hill

What do the White House, the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the Senate Majority Leader’s office have in common?

Cornell students have worked at each institution through Cornell in Washington (CIW), a semester-long engaged learning program founded in 1980 and housed at the Brooks School for Public Policy. The Cornell in Washington experience, which is open to undergraduates and graduate students across campus, includes three components: an internship, policy-related coursework, and Cornell-led experiences throughout Washington, D.C. During the fall, spring, and summer semesters, up to 45 students live and study together at the Cornell University Wolpe Center, a housing and learning complex located only a mile from the White House and within walking distance of D.C. landmarks like Dupont Circle and the Lincoln Memorial.

John Cawley, professor in the Brooks School of Public Policy and the Department of Economics, became Director of the CIW program in 2021.

“I hear over and over again from alumni that they wouldn’t be where they are today professionally without their experience in CIW,” Cawley said. CIW Alumni include: Hansen Clarke, former Congressman from Michigan; Hon. Alan G. Paez, Federal judge; Leonard Leo, Chairman of the Board of the Federalist Society; Dr. Mandy K. Cohen, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman of ESPN; and Tom Goldstone, Executive Producer for CNN.

Beyond remarkable internship opportunities, CIW offers classroom and experiential learning not available to students on the Ithaca campus.

“Our goal is to offer courses better taken in D.C. than anywhere else,” Cawley said. “Many of the courses are taught by policy practitioners, and all of them bring in D.C. experts as guest speakers and frequently involve field trips to D.C. institutions.” Last semester, students visited the U.S. Supreme Court, where they met with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and CNN, where they observed the broadcast news floor and recording studio.

They also visit important landmarks as a cohort, including the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Holocaust

Museum. “These are some of the best museums in the world on those topics, and every educated citizen should be aware of those histories,” Cawley said. “We try to create a well-rounded experience that helps the students understand what it is like to live and work in the Nation’s Capital.”

Let’s meet some of the fall Cornell in Washington students.

Shelby Lynn Williams '25 with Dr. Jill Biden during her internship at the White House

Shelby Lynn Williams ’25

Major: Government and Robert S. Harrison College Scholar Program
Hometown: Trenton, NJ

Since her early teenage years, Shelby Lynn Williams ’25 knew she wanted to work in Washington D.C. – and specifically participate in Cornell in Washington.

Williams, a 19-year-old government and college scholar double major, interned in the Office of the First Lady through the White House Internship Program in the fall of 2023 during her Cornell in Washington semester. There, she was responsible for assisting the social office team with planning and executing events for the President and First Lady.

“It was incredibly exciting to provide support for events pertaining to topics like artificial intelligence, gun violence prevention, and cultural heritage, and to even assist with the Australian State Dinner!” she said. “Through my internship, I learned how these events allow the administration to engage with the public to enhance their understanding of the administration’s public policy achievements.”

Overall, the experience reinforced Williams’ ambitions to work with people and broadened her perspective on what it means to work in public service.

“Above all, this experience taught me that there isn’t a singular way to be of service to the nation, nor is there a designated sequence of steps that one should follow,” she said. “It is my hope that my internship and broader Cornell in Washington experience will inspire other students, young people, and my community back home to recognize that they can achieve big things and make an impact!”


Jenna Alland '25 standing outside the Capitol Building where she interned in the House Budget Committee through Chairman Jodey Arrington's office.

Jenna Alland ’25

Major: Government
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

For as long as she can remember, Jenna Alland ’25 has been interested in the history of Washington, D.C., and the inner workings of the federal government. That made applying to Cornell in Washington an easy choice. This fall, Alland worked for the House Budget Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX).

“As a government major, oftentimes my courses in Ithaca are taught through a theoretical lens, debating political theory from Machiavelli to Waltz, but the practical experience of working on Capitol Hill provided a unique and invaluable perspective,” she said. “Witnessing the day-to-day operations of passing legislation allowed me to see the real-world applications of the theoretical concepts learned in my government courses.”

“And I had the opportunity to work for an office from my home state,” she said. “It was rewarding to work with Texans to address issues impacting my home state and local community.”

Alland found that her CIW courses helped her better understand the lessons she learned in her day job.

“My classes at CIW across the board have been my favorite of my time at Cornell,” she said. “Professor (Mary) Cheney’s class, Polarization in the United States, was a personal highlight. In the course, we explored the multifaceted forces fueling polarization and delved into the intricate web of cultural, political, and social dynamics shaping U.S. politics over the past five decades. It was fascinating to work on Capitol Hill during the day and then reflect on the shortcomings of that very system at night with my peers.”


Chase Young '25 standing in front of the Wolpe Center

Chase Young ’24

Major: Policy Analysis and Management
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

A growing interest in data science and curiosity about careers in Washington, D.C. inspired Chase Young PAM ’24 to apply to Cornell in Washington.

Young interned at the World Bank, where he helped with code testing for the Data Development Group and learned about using geospatial data for tracking poverty. The experience solidified his hopes of a career in international finance after college, and opened his eyes to working with colleagues from diverse cultures.

“We can all take lessons from the World Bank about how we can learn from each other’s cultures and how to be respectful of each other,” he said. “The World Bank employs a variety of workers from different countries and I was able to have several discussions where individuals were curious about my perspective on U.S. economic and political issues and I was able to learn about their home economies.”

Taking classes and living at the Wolpe Center helped Young feel connected to Cornell, even while living in D.C.

“Attending the Brooks School, I’ve always felt a pull towards D.C, being the center of all things public policy,” he said. “Participating in the CIW program deepened my understanding of government, especially through the insider perspectives in my classes. And the experience of living in Washington, D.C. itself and being able to talk to people can just give you a better feel of how the government works.”


Alexa Richardson '25 outside the Capitol Building where she interned in the office of U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Alexa Richardson ’24

Major: Communication
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Alexa Richardson ’24 applied to Cornell in Washington to branch out and experience a new city. “I wanted to expand beyond the Ithaca ‘bubble’ for a while and explore new horizons in my final semester,” she said. What began as curious exploration became a pivotal experience for Richardson, a communications major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Cornell in Washington has inspired me to pursue a career in international affairs and work towards positively impacting the world,” she said. “Overall, this experience has significantly influenced my future goals and ambitions, and I am excited to see where it takes me.”

Richardson was an intern in the office of U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), where she had a front-row seat to the inner workings of the U.S. political system.

“I learned that policy starts and ends with people,” she said. “My internship provided me with a unique opportunity to witness the inner workings of government firsthand, and the experiential learning sections of Cornell in Washington allowed me to fully absorb and understand what I had learned.”

A highlight for Richardson was working on a semester-long project on maternal mortality among Black women as part of the CIW core course.

“I am incredibly passionate about this issue, and it was a privilege to work on it from a policy aspect, especially since I started my Cornell studies years ago as a global and public health major,” she said. “By approaching the problem from a different angle, I diversified the solutions and found ways to better address thiscritical issue. Presenting the final project allowed me to observe my personal development and improvement over the course of the semester and exhibit it to my peers and professors. It was extremely rewarding!”

Media Contact

Media Relations Office