Units of study

The Washington DC Placement Program has been designed to give students an understanding of the US political system in the heart of the nation’s capitol. You will complete courses alongside students from the University of California campuses, as well as visiting students from other universities across the US.

USSC3703 - Compulsory

Completing the internship unit is compulsory for all students accepted into the program. The unit involves students undertaking a professional placement in Washington DC as well as preparatory coursework in reflective and professional practice and concurrent coursework on research methods, reporting and other professional writing skills. Assessment will include a research essay and oral presentation based on the internship professional placement and study abroad experience.

Note: UWA students will enrol in the USSC3703 unit as cross-institutional applicants, and will receive credit towards their UWA degree for the unit.

UCDC Seminars and Electives

Students will be asked to rank the below list of evening seminars and electives offered by UCDC in order of preference and will be placed into two units according to UCDC processes. See below for 2019 class options-updates for 2020 will be posted as soon as they become available. Details will be updated as they come through so be sure to check this page often.


International Development
Time: Tuesdays, 6.30-9.30pm
Professor: Loubna Hanna

This is an introductory course to the international development field. The focus is on some of the key questions, challenges and achievements in this field. Materials from the course (readings, documentaries, discussions of current events) will enhance your understanding of the dominant approaches to poverty alleviation, the role of inter/national development actors, organizations and institutions, the promises of post-2015 Development Goals including the empowerment of women and youth. You will be exposed to the theoretical foundations of the field and will be required to make sense of these by following current events and drawing on your internship experiences in the nation’s Capital as well as your interactions with various experts, policy makers and development practitioners. The ultimate-goal of the course is to enhance your understanding of the various causes and consequences of development problems and encourage you to develop individual perspective on effective strategies for change. 

The United States Supreme Court
Time: Thursdays, 6.30-9.30pm
Professor: Jessica Gresko

Gay marriage. The death penalty. Abortion. Health care. Cell phone privacy. The U.S. Supreme Court has heard cases on all of these topics in recent years, and its decisions ultimately touch the lives of all Americans. In this class we will study the Supreme Court's place in the U.S. legal system. Topics we will cover include: how a case gets to the court, the justices, the role of lawyers before the court, the purpose of oral argument, the court building and its symbolism, and media coverage of the court. Readings will range from newspaper and magazine stories to law review articles. At least once during the semester students will attend an oral argument, and cases currently before the court will be used as a reference point for class discussion. This class is geared not only toward anyone who is interested in the law or government service but also toward anyone interested in working on or being informed about the biggest issues of the day.


Politics of Water Policy
Time: Tuesdays, 6.30-9.30pm
Professor: Jim Desveaux

As the title suggests, this course is about of the trenchant policy problems of our time, policy regarding the availability, uses, and distribution of water, particularly in arid parts of the world. Though the focus of the class will be the American West (west of the 100th meridian), I will bring into discussion—and invite discussion—about water policy dynamics in other parts of the world, such as Africa and Australia, where there exists conflict or potential for conflict over riparian rights. This class will take 3 different cuts at water policy, organized around the frames of politics, organization, and technology. We will learn about the history and logic behind the major policies in place for most of the past hundred years, what incentives were created under those policies, and how various interests with stakes in maintaining or changing aspects of water policy constraint or create openings for change. We will spend some time discussing some of the more significant actors involved in water policy, such as the Bureau of Reclamation and the US Army Corps of Engineers, that have shaped our current world. And no class on water policy would be complete without a discussion of the technological possibilities for helping us navigate our way out of crisis, through new methods of conservation, water desalinization, waste water recycling, etc. What is the potential for technology in this domain?

Money, Message and Media
Time: Thursdays, 7.00-10.00pm
Professor: Steve Scully

This course will look at all aspects of national campaigns, from the evolution of political parties and advertising, to the messages of potential 2016 candidates, the impact of social media and role of outside interest groups. The class will provide historical context in order to put current events into perspective, as well as lead lively classroom discussions and debates on the state of America’s political system.

Activism, Protest and the Politics of Change in Washington D.C.
Time: Tuesdays, 6.30-9.30pm
Professor: Dale Crowell

How does social and political change happen in Washington? What strategies and techniques do underdogs use to take on entrenched and established powers in the nation’s capital? Making real change is difficult. Yet, there are several examples of successful social movements in American history and politics that came to Washington and effectively changed the course of the nation's politics and history. This class will explore the history and stories of grassroots mobilization and advocacy on the national stage. By observing advocacy events and interacting with guest speakers, students will learn about the successes—and failures—of social groups’ efforts to make lasting change in American politics and society.

How Technology Shapes Public Policy
Time: Thursdays, 6.30-9.30pm
Professor: Shelly Steward

The course begins by examining the relationship between technology and society, illuminating for students how culture, law, and policy have shaped technology’s development over the past century. Next, students will explore a range of contemporary issues at the intersection of technology and public policy, including automation, surveillance, algorithmic discrimination, and regulatory challenges. Finally, we will consider the broad relationship between technology and democracy in the 21st century. At the conclusion of the course, each student will draft an original tech policy proposal, which they will share with classmates at a policy pitch event on the last day of class.

Washington History, Institutions & Rituals: Myth vs. Reality
Time: Thursdays, 6.30-9.30pm
Professor: Marc Sandalow

Much is said about Washington. Much of it is wrong. This course will immerse students in the history, institutions and rituals of nation’s capital. You will learn about Washington’s transformation from a remote federal city to the world’s most powerful capital. We will analyze the accuracy of Washington’s depiction throughout history, how it is represented – and misrepresented -- in modern culture, and why it is ridiculed by politicians who want to work there. We will examine the glorification and vilification of Washington in literature and film and assess the truth behind popular Washington myths. We will probe Washington policy debates and rituals and survey the research tools used to separate fact from fiction. You will have an opportunity to study and visit monuments and museums, as well as iconic institutions as the National Portrait Gallery and Ben’s Chili Bowl.

About UCDC

When the University of California (UC) first opened its doors in 1869, it had just 10 faculty members and 38 students. Today, the UC system includes more than 220,000 students and more than 170,000 faculty and staff, with more than 1.5 million alumni living and working around the world. The academic presence of the University of California in Washington DC dates back to 1990 when two, and shortly thereafter, four UC campuses established academic programs in the nation's capital. By the time of the opening of the Center's present facility in 2001, that number had grown to include eight UC campuses. The multi-campus residential, instructional and research center provides UC students and faculty opportunities to research, work and study in Washington DC. UC students spend a quarter/semester in residence at the Center and work and study in the DC metropolitan area. As interns with Congress, the Federal Government, research and advocacy organisations, the news media and through a host of other opportunities, students gain first-hand exposure to the American political process while attaining valuable work experience.