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New course takes students to DC to prepare for career in foreign policy

Students in classroom.
October 24, 2013

Sun Devils have a new opportunity to gain experience in foreign affairs and public policy through the McCain Institute for International Leadership’s Policy Design Studio program.

Located in Washington, D.C., this semester-long experience is currently in its inaugural session, with eight ASU undergrads living, learning and working in our nation’s capital.

Michael C. Polt, the institute’s senior director and a former U.S. Ambassador, leads the program and serves as its main instructor. This fall he is teaching “Diplomacy in Action – The Embassy Country Team,” a course that simulates the operation of the U.S. Embassy Mexico Country Team. Paired with an internship, the course allows students to earn eight credits toward their degree and is run through the School of Politics and Global Studies.

“We fully function like the U.S. Embassy Mexico City Country Team,” Polt said about the program. “This class is an exercise in the reality of U.S. diplomatic practice.”

Weekly studio activities include meetings with senior-level policymakers, briefings with Department of State staff and the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, and visits to government agencies whose work affects diplomacy, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Allysa Turner, a junior in the W. P. Carey School of Business and current Policy Design Studio student, said the course has been the best real-world experience she could imagine getting to prepare for a career in foreign policy.

"Being able to learn from a former ambassador and meet diplomats from around the world made the whole experience worthwhile,” she said. “Plus, it takes place in the nation's capital – what else could you ask for?"

In addition to the course, an integral part of the program is an internship in Washington. This semester, students are working for a variety of organizations and agencies, including the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Peace Corps Association, Catholic Charities and the U.S. Senate. These internships not only allow students to gain hands-on experience, but also give them the ability to network and make connections outside of Tempe.

ASU students participating in the Washington Policy Design Studio and Internship are also encouraged to take part in McCain Institute events and programming, such as the McCain Debate and Decision Series. Held every month, the series brings together thought-leaders and policymakers from around the world to debate topics in international affairs.

For more information on the program, visit or contact Rebecca Lish at (480) 965-1720.