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Ethan Thursby Learns That Progress Is Possible During Capital Semester In Washington


TFAS Professor Brian Blase makes sure the students of his Economic Problems and Public Policies course are well aware of John Stossel. According to recent TFAS graduate Ethan Thursby (CSF 13), it’s to the point that, when studying for economics exams, Capital Semester Fall (CSF) students asked themselves “WWSD,” or “What Would Stossel Do?” This is one of many mantras Thursby said his classmates developed while living and interning in D.C. for the semester.

Besides Professor Blase’s class, the group of 15 students took two other upper-level  courses accredited through George Mason University: Constitutional Interpretation, taught by ProfessorJohn Samples of the Cato Institute, and an Internship Seminar, taught by TFAS Alumna and Professor Karen Czarnecki (ICPES 88) of George Mason School of Law and Professor Richard Benedetto formerly of USA Today.

“I would definitely recommend TFAS to anyone. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Thursby said. “D.C. is clearly where the action is happening.”

Capital Semester students attended briefings at the World Bank and U.S. Department of State, to name a few, plus toured George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the Newseum. But one of Thursby’s favorite events of the semester was a guest lecture by Dr.Lara Brown, political management program director for George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She spoke about “Presidential Base Electoral Strategies and Partisan Polarization.” Thursby said this event made him aware of a program that is closely aligned with his own interests and future career goals.

“I found out about this program through being at TFAS,” Thursby said. “When Dr. Brown was speaking, I thought, ‘I want to do that.’”

In addition to classes and briefings, Thursby, a political science student from Orange County, Calif., interned at Kohn, Kohn, and Colapinto LLP, a law firm specializing in whistleblower protection. Thursby said he was not familiar with this type of legal practice before his internship. After working this semester, Thursby felt that he gained a lot of skills from his internship.

“It was a great experience because of the substantive work the firm gave me. I worked one-on-one with a partner. I helped write briefs that were filed with court, I aided in discovery and I reviewed documents from the opposing side,” Thursby said.

One of such documents consisted of 5,000 pages. Thursby had the task to go through the pages and make a report to the partner. He says this helped him become a faster reader, he learned how to do legal research and he interacted with clients.

“The most noteworthy work the partner allowed me to do was to have extensive phone conversations with the client. We went over all the exhibits we were going to use. The client explained the importance of each exhibit,” Thursby said. “I talked to my internship supervisor about it and she told me interns don’t usually get to interact with clients to that degree.”

Thursby commented that his semester in Washington showed him a lot about Washington and politics.

“Progress is possible. At the start of the semester, the two sides of Congress were fighting with each other, the shutdown happened, the debt ceiling was almost exceeded and there was partisan bickering. By the end of the semester, Sen. Patty Murray(Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.) reached a budget agreement.  I didn’t expect that to happen,” Thursby said.

At graduation, Thursby received the Director’s Award for Outstanding Participation. Then he flew back to California and Chapman University where he hopes to stay involved with area alumni. He originally decided to apply for Capital Semester after an information session with TFAS alumni who visited his university. He said someday he wants to come back to D.C. and work in policy or for the federal government.

And if he is ever in doubt about what to do in the future, or at least on an economics exam, he can always refer back to WWSD, or What Would Stossel Do?

Capital Semester Spring 2014 will get underway in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 15, 2014. For information on the Capital Semester Spring Program, please visit www.DCInternships.org/CS



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