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.


The American Presidency and Executive Power
Time: Tuesdays, 6.30-9.30pm
Professor: Gilbert Nunez

This course will put the current presidency in historical and theoretical context, drawing on a variety of readings and approaches. At its core, this class is about the problem of executive power in democratic government. We will study and reflect not only on the details of what the presidency is in theory and practice, we will also consider how it (and other parts of the system) might be changed to overcome the problems of governance that have plagued the U.S. The goal is to understand the work of the presidency and some of the different perspectives by which we might analyze presidents and their administrations.

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.

International Human Rights
Time: Thursdays, 6.30-9.30pm
Professor: Alison Brysk

This course will analyze theories, patterns, and cases of human rights violations throughout the world. What are international human rights standards? What social and political conditions seem to cause widespread human rights violations? What remedies are available, at the international, national, and individual levels? Topics will include torture, genocide, labor rights, and gender violence.

Museums and Monuments: Cultural Heritage in the Nation’s Capital
Time: Tuesdays, 6.30-9.30pm
Professor: Miriam Doutriaux

Physical artifacts, buildings and historic places are important markers of cultural heritage. Their meanings and associations inform viewers’ perceptions of the world, while their materiality provides a tangible connection to past people and events. When displayed publicly, these markers provide a concrete basis for historical narratives, and can serve to validate ideas about contemporary society and to shape ideas about the future. Museums and monuments take on particular significance in the nation’s capital, seat of political power and figurative heart of the nation. On the National Mall, grand monuments to historic figures and events and the stately buildings of the Smithsonian Institution bespeak power and grandeur. A more detailed examination of the city’s collections and cultural landmarks reveals diverse, and sometimes conflicting or contradictory narratives about the nation. This course will examine how cultural heritage is deployed in Washington, DC, how various constituencies are represented, and how the cultural landscape of the nation’s capital is informed by discourses of power, knowledge, memory, and identity. Students in this course will visit museums and monuments, and complete assigned readings weekly. Seminar meetings will be dedicated to lecture (including occasional guest lectures) and discussion.

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.