NIU professors, students to explore politics in D.C.

By Logan Love

The registration for the Explore Government & Politics in Washington, D.C. is coming to an end on Feb. 18.

Political science professors Artemus Ward and Matthew Streb will lead a spring break seminar in Washington, D.C., to study politics and network with NIU alumni. The course, POLS 497, will provide students an in-depth look into the inner workings of government, according to Ward.

“The U.S. government can seem daunting, remote and unattainable as a career destination,” Ward said. “What we want to do is show the students that D.C. is in fact a relatively small government town and that the people that live and work there are just like them.”

Many of the people that the students will engage with during this course are NIU graduates. The course features visits to the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court building and K Street–famous for being the center of the lobbying industry–with NIU graduates at every stop.

“The real highlight of the program is there’s an alumni reception,” Ward said. “We meet with former NIU students who are currently working in D.C. and get to see what their jobs entail. It is the kind of education students can never get in a traditional classroom.”

Sierra Myerscough, freshman political science major, got involved in politics during the 2008 election and worked as an intern with Obama for America this past election. Myerscough jumped at the chance to go to D.C. and is excited about meeting former students pursuing the same goals as her.

“The dinner with the alumni is something I am looking forward to most of all because they are actually working in D.C.,” Myerscough said. “I already have a list of questions for them.”

The course, in its second offering, requires an $895 program fee and does not have to be taken for a credit. Everything is included except tuition (if taken for credit) and transportation to and from the capital, where students have the freedom to make their own travel plans.

“We had a student last year that took the overnight train with a sleeper car right into union station in D.C., which is pretty sweet,” Ward said.

Ward arrived at NIU in 2003 coming directly from the nation’s capital, where he worked as a staffer for the House Judiciary Committee. The first thing Ward wanted to do was set up a spring break program in D.C. to study politics.

“It’s one thing to talk about how government works and it’s entirely something else to experience it for yourself,” Ward said.

The course took almost a decade to get off the ground, even with the help of Streb, chair of the political science department.

“As chair of the political science department, he took the lead in figuring out the logistics of establishing the course and worked closely with NIU staff to get it off the ground,” Ward said, “His help was invaluable and we wouldn’t have the program if it wasn’t for him.”

Natasha Jensen, junior political science major, is excited about the course and to see what she can do with an NIU diploma.

“This spring break trip is an opportunity to visit D.C., learn and meet alumni,” said Jensen. “It is awesome to know that people who were once in a position that I am are now working in D.C. and using their degrees. And I get to be in D.C. for a few days, who wouldn’t want to go?”

Students interested in the course should register as soon as possible to reserve a space. The $895 program fee must be paid by Feb. 18.

“The whole point of studying abroad, whether it’s going overseas or somewhere domestically, it’s about getting out of the classroom,” said Ward. “The class is going places and experiencing it, it’s not so much reading and writing…it’s really let’s go experience government. That’s the idea, to meet with the people that work there and talk to them about what they do, walk the halls and see how it works, bring it alive.”


For more information about the course, you can contact professor Artemus Ward at [email protected] or visit the Department of Political Science website at for a registration form and informational PowerPoint.