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Brown in Washington

Brown in Washington Fellowship offers an insider’s perspective

September 23, 2022

Students who participate in the Brown in Washington semester-long fellowship work with a public or nonprofit sector agency, and complete a 2-credit practicum, an International and Public Affairs (IAPA) course, and at least one Brown remote-accessible course or independent study of their choosing.  The program is designed to enable students to expand and enrich their professional pathways by networking with alumni and others. Originally a partnership between Watson and the Swearer Center, the Brown in Washington program – with fall, spring, and summer semesters – is now hosted through the Dean of the College, and engages prominent Watson faculty. 

Watson Senior Fellow Brian Atwood, who brings his expertise and experience as a former Under Secretary of State and Administrator of USAID, teaches the IAPA class, titled Diplomacy, an Art That is Not Lost. Taking into account the profound changes in the world since the 1945 founding of the U.N. that “complicate the diplomatic mission,” the course addresses how policy is made, including the role of the press and Congress, and the necessity of diplomacy in every profession.

During the course’s negotiation exercise, each five-person cohort includes two students advocating for one side of the dispute, two arguing the opposite, and one mediator.

“Students write a detailed paper describing the dynamics and substance of their negotiations and the historical and cultural differences pertaining to the specific dispute,” Atwood says, acknowledging that “some disputes may not [have] a resolution.” 

The 2-credit practicum enables students to see “how their internships connect with the work they’re doing in [their other courses],” says Shaunté Montgomery, Ph.D., associate director of Brown in Washington, and the program’s first full-time staff member. The practicum includes weekly seminar sessions in which Watson faculty members present on development, governance, and security issues. 

Ideally, students secure their internships before the program begins. “We offer workshops with Brown’s CareerLAB on interviewing and developing professional portfolios and professional and social networking activities with alumni through the Brown Club of DC,” says Montgomery. “Alumni really enjoy the experience of meeting the students and are eager to connect in meaningful ways.” 

At her internship at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Isabela von Dehl ’22.5, is working with the policy team on an exciting new youth engagement initiative.  “I thought that Brown in Washington would be the perfect capstone to my undergraduate degree,” says von Dehl, who hopes to work for NOAA after graduation. After interning with Rhode Island State Representative David Morales MPA ’19, von Dehl, an IAPA concentrator, says, “I wanted to see what it was like to work on policy at the national level and to transition to climate policy.” 

This fall, Ambassador Chas Freeman, Jr., a Watson Institute senior fellow who has served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, ambassador to Saudi Arabia, acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and Chargé d'affaires at both Bangkok and Beijing, shared his insights and experience with the students. “He’s the most intellectual career person I know,” says Atwood. “We’re very fortunate to have him at Watson.” 

Another component of the IAPA course entails a mock hearing held in a Senate hearing room, with some students portraying senators (often representing a right-wing perspective), others representing witnesses, such as the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the AID administrator, and the rest representing the media.  

For von Dehl, the program’s greatest highlights have been the faculty and staff. “Everyone is so kind and accomplished; they’re all so helpful in helping us navigate this new place,” she says. “It’s such a privilege to be able to learn from Professor Atwood, who has literally reshaped countries.”  

In DC, Montgomery says, “there’s an entire cultural epicenter here for students. We give them a glimpse into what’s happening in their backyard.” The program includes a White House tour, a panel discussion with members of Congress about current legislative activity and the midterm elections, and museum visits.  

“For me, this program offers the perfect opportunity to transition from being a student to being a young professional,” says von Dehl.

Atwood says, “I appreciate how bright the Brown students are. I’d like to see them involved in public service. It’s a great way to spend your life.”

Apply here for Brown in Washington for the spring 2023 semester.  


-       Nancy Kirsch