Duke in D.C.

Policy, Leadership & Innovation

Internship & coursework for an insider perspective on D.C.

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The Duke in DC program offers a unique and exciting opportunity to live, study, and work in the nation’s capital. This is your opportunity to experience up close how public policy shapes society and your place in it. Whether your future is as a lawyer, a social entrepreneur, a teacher, a high-tech innovator, an artist, or simply an engaged citizen, public policy matters to you – this program helps you understand how.

Duke in DC has a pre-professional tilt, connecting classroom study to experiential learning oriented around policy innovation and public leadership. You meet in weekly seminars with Duke faculty members, who allow you to tailor many assignments to your policy interests. The courses often feature high-profile practitioners from the media, government, and advocacy communities—often Duke alums—who are eager to show you how Washington really works and to guide your intellectual and professional development. You also will gain a significant work credential through a 28-hour/week internship at an agency or organization of your choice.

We spend the semester visiting key sites—from the world-famous monuments of the federal city to the everyday neighborhoods of “the real DC.” You have lots of opportunities to network with Duke alums at basketball “watch parties” and social events at the university’s beautiful offices in downtown Washington. You will enjoy a group-living experience in a new facility centrally located near trendy restaurants and major Washington attractions.

The program is offered by the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Global Education Office. Majors from all departments are encouraged to apply.


Location: Washington, D.C., USA

Term: Spring

Dates: January 4, 2025 - April 27, 2025 (Tentative)

Application Deadline: August 15 (1st round) late applications will be accepted on a case-by-case basis as program space allows

Academic Theme(s): Public Policy, Political Science, Journalism

Credit TypeDuke Credit

Eligibility: Open to sophomores, juniors, or seniors from all majors with GPA of 3.0 or higher and successful completion of PUBPOL 155D (55D), “Introduction to Public Policy Analysis,” or equivalent. Non-Duke students are welcome to apply.

Duke Affiliation: Co-sponsored by the Sanford School of Public Policy

Housing: Residence Hall 

GEO Advising: Request an appointment


Students on this program take four courses, including one involving a research project linked to an internship. Two courses meet weekly in the evenings; one meets Friday morning; and the fourth consists of weekly, one-on-one meetings with the instructor. The curriculum changes from year to year to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Being in DC allows the faculty to teach these courses in a more flexible, creative, and hands-on way than is possible on campus.

The following policies regarding course load are in effect:

  • Students must enroll in four full courses. No underloads and no overloads are permitted.
  • All courses must be taken for graded credit.
  • Course 1
  • Course 2
  • Course 3
  • Practicum

Course 1

Theory and Practice: People, Places and Policy Cases  
(SS; substitutes for PUBPOL 301) 1.0 Credit
Instructor: Professor Kristin Goss

This applied political analysis course features prominent speakers from Congress, the White House, government agencies, the media, and interest groups who can apply public policy theory and analysis to real-world policy cases.

Prior speakers have included U.S. Representatives from North Carolina and California; the author of an inside account of how the stimulus saved the economy; the White House aide in charge of Internet and privacy policy; a State Department official who engaged Millennials for Middle East peace; a top conservative strategist; and civil servants working behind the scenes to revolutionize America’s sources of energy and approach to natural disasters.

The course features a different focus each year; past themes have included “agenda-setting in the new administration” and “the value of public service in challenging times.” Assignments include weekly “quick takes” – one-page reflections on a core question. This course may fulfill the Public Policy Studies 301 requirement.

For some students outside of public policy and political science, this course may count toward your concentration requirement by special arrangement.

Course 2

Whose Democracy? Participation and Public Policy in the United States
(SS) 1.0 Credit
Instructor: Professor Kristin Goss

This course illuminates the role of citizens and interest groups in shaping the policy agenda. For Duke in DC, this course would make several contributions, including:

(1) illuminating through academic work the scope, dimensions, and enduring importance of pluralism in American democracy;

(2) offering you an opportunity to get to know what we might call “the real DC” (the urban metropolis where everyday Americans live and real social problems exist, as opposed to the “political DC” of national elites and young politicos just passing through); and

(3) providing you a chance to reflect thoughtfully and critically on the semester, most importantly on the ethical dilemmas and core insights that have emerged.

The course includes student-led, policy-oriented tours of DC neighborhoods and a half day of community service at a local charity.

For some students outside of public policy and political science, this course may count toward your concentration requirement by special arrangement.

Course 3

Shakespeare’s Politics 

(EI) 1.0 Credit

We are reading three of Shakespeare’s political plays (Macbeth, King Lear, and The Merchant of Venice) to better understand our politics and ourselves. Shakespeare believed the political life was the arena where virtues and vices came alive. He thought that our human capacities can only be fully developed in civil society, in the political realm, which is distinct from the private or interior life so favored by modern novelists. Shakespeare made human beings who lived full political lives the subject of much of his plays. For this reason his plays were able to shape the taste and prudence of many generations of statesmen and citizens. For example, Abraham Lincoln believed Macbeth to be the perfect illustration of the problems of tyranny and murder. Churchill was a lifelong admirer of Shakespeare, whose plays shaped his writing and ideas. In fact, passages from Shakespeare’s plays influenced the prime minister’s famous wartime speeches that rallied a nation. Thomas Jefferson once advised a friend that “Shakespeare must be singled out by one who wishes to learn the full powers of the English language.” John Adams read and quoted from Shakespeare’s plays throughout his life, once comparing the villainous George III with Richard III. Shakespeare has been used for political purposes throughout American history. The Broadway musical Hamilton is the 21st century version of Macbeth: two Scotsmen with distinguished military backgrounds, vaulting political ambition, and lives.


Politics and Policy Practicum for Duke in DC  
(SS)  1.0 Credit
Instructor: Goldring

In this course, students develop policy expertise and professional skills relating to their Washington internship. The course provides students with skills that enhance their internship experience and that prepare them for future research and policy work.

The skill-building components may include: analyzing sources of information, interviewing for research and for policy analysis, doing sensitivity analysis, providing constructive criticism, negotiating policy agreements, and briefing expert and non-expert audiences. 


Working in an internship each week throughout the semester, you will contribute meaningfully to the work of a governmental office, nonprofit, or company working on agenda-topping public policy issues. Because most interns don’t arrive until summer, you are likely to be given extra responsibility very quickly.

In the past, students have interned for Congressional offices such as U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. Rep Jamie Herrera Beutler, and the Senate Republican Caucus; federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and the National Defense University; consulting firms such as Grayling, VOX Global, and the Nueva Vista Group; policy shops at companies such as Facebook; and nonprofits such as Turning the Page and the Children’s Defense Fund.

Attention: International Students – If you are an international student studying at Duke on a visa (such as F-1), you will need to obtain the required CPT or OPT authorization for the internship that is a required part of this program. Please contact Duke Visa Services immediately for assistance.


Students will be housed in the Washington Intern Housing Network (WIHN) located on Capitol Hill. The housing is close to the United States Supreme Court, Union Station, Capitol South Metro and many other DC attractions.

Each student will live in a double bedroom in a group house. Note that other university students may be mixed in with the Duke students in the house. Each house has a kitchen and a washer and dryer unit. Students enrolled in the Duke in DC program should be aware that this is not dormitory style living, and residents will be responsible for keeping their living area clean and respecting their roommates along with other residents in the facility.

Meals: Meals are not offered as a part of the program, though evening courses feature catered dinners. We also have social gatherings, both as a class and with Duke alumni, during the course of the semester.

Transportation: The program subsidizes passes for DC’s excellent subway and bus system.


Site visits and other activities are integral to the program. At times we visit our speakers in their home environment. For example, students have met with the National Archivist in his private office and then enjoyed a private tour of the fascinating exhibits. We have also visited Congress members on Capitol Hill and journalists in their television studios.

Likewise, we regularly get out of the classroom to tour places that “bring home” themes covered in readings and class discussions. For example, during a class on social movements, we have visited the home of a famed abolitionist and suffrage leader; for a class on government response to crises, we have attended a panel on post-Katrina reforms in disaster preparedness. One special activity is our own self-designed, student-led tour of “the real DC,” in which each of us learns as much as possible about one of Washington’s eight wards and then serves as the class guide to these diverse neighborhoods.

Naturally, we also find time to be tourists, visiting world-famous attractions such as the U.S. Capitol (with the tour sometimes offered by one of our own students!), the White House, the Newseum, the National Zoo, and the city’s many renowned museums.

On basketball nights, you are free to attend “watch parties” with the large and welcoming Duke DC alumni group. For those who wish to return to campus, we offer tickets to one home game during the semester.


Spring 2025

These costs are estimated based on previous years’ programs and the current exchange rate. All costs are subject to change.

  Duke Students Non-Duke Students
Duke Tuition (spring 2025) $33,162.50 $33,162.50
Program Fee $500.00 $500.00
Transcript Fee N/A $120.00
Housing Charges $4,747 $4,747
Other Costs* See Cost Sheet See Cost Sheet
TOTAL (Estimated) $49,286.50 $49,406.50

*A customizable program cost sheet that includes a breakdown of other costs is available on the programs' MyExperientialEd brochure page

Costs FAQs

Financial Aid

Duke students receiving institutional need-based grant aid are eligible for aid for this program; work-study funds are converted to grants. Students are individually responsible for making the necessary arrangements with the Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support and the Duke Bursar’s Office.

Non-Duke students are not eligible to receive financial aid at Duke and should contact their home institutions for financial aid information. 


Spring 2025

Attendance is required at all classes, excursions, and group events. Late arrival and/or early departure is not permitted.

  • Arrival: January 4, 2025 (Tentative)
  • Departure: April 27, 2025 (Tentative)

Housing Before/After

You will need to make your own housing arrangements if you will be arriving before the program start date or leaving later than the program end date.

Program Faculty & Staff

Kayla Soltis-Katella

GEO Assistant Director

Douglas Huey

GEO Staff Assistant for Programs


Deadline:  August 15 (1st round) late applications will be accepted on a case-by-case basis as program space allows

This program has rolling admission. Applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis until the program fills; after that, qualified students are added to a waitlist and notified of openings. Applications must be received by the deadline to be considered. After a review of the student applications, finalists will be invited to interview with program staff before selections are made.

Priority: Priority will be given to applicants who apply early and meet the prerequisites.

Minimum GPA: The minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) required for this program is 3.0.

International Students: If you are an international student studying at Duke on a visa (such as F-1), you will need to obtain the required CPT or OPT authorization for the internship that is a required part of this program. Please contact Duke Visa Services immediately for assistance.

Non-Duke students: Non-Duke students are welcome to apply for this program. You must be a degree-seeking student in good standing at an accredited college or university. Consult your university’s registrar and/or study away advisor for assistance with transfer credit. Students who are not matriculated at a college or university are not eligible to participate in Duke’s study away programs.

Physical Requirements

Before applying to this program, please take into consideration the light physical demands required by some of this program’s activities. Activities include walking moderate distances on sometimes hilly, uneven, and/or cobbled terrain, climbing up stairs, using public transportation, and standing during tours and site visits. If you have questions or are concerned about any of these activities, please contact the faculty program director.


Start your application early to ensure that it is complete by the deadline! Incomplete applications will not be forwarded to the program directors for consideration.

Submit the following items using MyExperientialEd

  1. Official transcript(s) from all colleges and universities attended. First-year students should wait for fall semester grades to be posted before submitting their transcript.
  2. The name and email of one faculty reference (in public policy or political science if possible)
  3. Personal statement (no more than 2 pages)