Washington D.C. seminar creates change-makers

‘Researchers, not students’ flex their public-policy muscles in UW Bothell’s longest-running weeklong learning experience.

Politics and civic issues had always piqued Joren Clowers’ interest, but it took an in-depth, human rights research seminar and a trip to Washington, D.C., with other UW Bothell students to inspire him to pursue a career in public policy. He graduated with majors in Law, Economics and Public Policy and in American Ethnic Studies in 2017. In 2018, he received his Master of Arts in Policy Studies.

Lindsey Warnick, a 2004 major in Society, Ethics and Human Behavior, says she shared Joren’s passions when she was a student at UW Bothell. And while she did not participate in the D.C. seminar, as a member of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences Advisory Board, she now recognizes the impact of what students for the past 28 years have been calling a lifechanging experience. “I wish I would’ve taken advantage of more experiential learning opportunities.

That’s why I am committed to helping make these programs accessible to all students, regardless of the demands they face in their personal lives,” Lindsey explains. “Programs like this are the core of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences degrees.”

Lindsey and her colleagues on the IAS advisory board have spearheaded a fundraising campaign to generate $25,000 for seminar scholarships — and are already more than halfway toward meeting that goal. The funds will be used to ensure more students can take part in what Joren also describes as “an amazing collaborative experience.”

“You don’t just learn about your own topic and research, but you’re invested in your classmates’ research as well,” he says. “It teaches you about working together, bouncing ideas off each other and using other people’s skills to your benefit.”

Students begin the seminar in the summer, reading books on history, philosophy, law, international relations, public policy and human rights, according to Associate Professor Ron Krabill, who led this year’s seminar. The 20-student cohort then comes together in September, and each student proposes a research project centered on a specific international human rights violation.

The D.C. trip follows in mid September. It is an intense week of 14- hour days that include appointments with lawmakers as well as meetings with staff in the U.S. Department of State, foreign embassies, human rights organizations, and policy institutes. Each evening features a group debrief of the day’s activities.

As he and other IAS colleagues organize the trip each year, says Ron, “we emphasize that these officials will be meeting with researchers, not students. Through the years — since the seminar started back when UW Bothell was founded — we’ve developed a strong reputation for being well-prepared and doing serious work.” The seminar also supports impressive outcomes for students.

Following a meeting with Sen. Maria Cantwell during his trip in 2016 — where he raised concerns about federal implications of human rights violations in the construction of a World Cup soccer stadium in Qatar — Joren earned an internship in Sen. Cantwell’s Everett office. Today, he is managing a state legislative campaign while also working for UW Bothell as a program coordinator in government and community relations.

“Students who go on the trip recognize that social change is possible, even if they also realize it’s very difficult,” Ron concludes. “Engaging with political processes can make real change. You get a sense that you’re not just a pawn in someone else’s game, but you can engage in things that are meaningful to you.” That kind of inspiration is critical to students, adds Lindsey.

“What UW Bothell is doing in programs like this is preparing students to be successful in the world, to navigate complex systems and to go out to fight for what’s right.”

Read more stories and updates from D.C. Seminar alumni.