PS 125: The Washington Experience

IIW students from Spring ’17 visiting the Greek Embassy.


Washington, DC, is a unique city. It is the nation’s capital and a place where people both
connected and disconnected from national politics live and work. Over 600,000 people live in
Washington, DC, a city created by the government and expressly planned as the nation’s capital in 1790. Washington, the District of Columbia, is not a state. District residents were granted the right to vote in national elections in 1961 and a mayor and city council were established (by appointment) in 1967. In 1973, residents were granted “home rule” and began electing their own mayor, city council and board of education. Congress retains control of the city budget and can invalidate local laws.


Our course explores political Washington: Washington, DC, as the nation’s capital. The course seeks to understand political Washington and policymaking. Through visits to think tanks, nonprofit organizations and agencies we will examine the policymaking world in Washington and get to know different participants in this process, what they do, and how they interact and work to affect policy and express their ideas. The world of political Washington is broad and diverse. In addition to the three branches of government, there is an array of groups in DC. Groups, including nonprofits, for profits, professional associations, political organizations, and think tanks, have a wide variety of interests from health care and the separation of church and state to foreign policy and economics. Some have goals they advocate, some seek to provide neutral information or information to affect policy change in a particular direction, some work to achieve their clients’ or members’ specific goals. You are all working in offices that play a role in part of the DC policymaking world. This class will add to and build on your knowledge of political Washington.

Course Structure

The class has a very open structure and schedule to accommodate different guest speakers.  The class has assigned readings and required writing assignments, but the details and timing of particular class meetings are left open so that we can take advantage of developing opportunities and of subject areas of interest to the class.  Changes in the political landscape, as well as political, social and natural events often mean that various organizations in town will schedule last-minute presentations or other events. 

IIW students visiting the Supreme Court.

Examples of Where PS 125 Has Visited

  • The White House
  • The Humane Society of DC
  • The Capitol Building (After Hours!)
  • Numerous Embassies
  • The US Supreme Court
  • The Newseum