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 The Penn in Washington Program, which gives students get the opportunity to work part-time as an intern in Washington, D.C., hopes to return to in-person programming this Fall.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

The Penn in Washington Program will tentatively be held in person for the fall 2021 semester.

A semester-long program, the Penn in Washington Program affords a cohort of about 25 students the opportunity to work part-time as interns in D.C., while also taking four course credits taught by Penn professors in Washington. The program was held online during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. 

Although students studying political science and international relations received an email on March 3 notifying them that the program will be conducted in person this fall and encouraging them to apply by March 15, Penn in Washington Executive Director Deirdre Martinez said that it actually cannot be said for certain if the program can return to in-person operation.

Martinez added that the final decision on the program format will depend on two factors: whether interns are hired for in-person work and whether it will be safe for students to pursue these internships. She said there is not enough information at the moment to determine when the final decision will be made. 

"I am working on the assumption that, by the fall, internship sponsors will be ready to hire interns for in-person work," Martinez said. "We can’t know this for certain, but we can plan for the possibility. If that turns out not to be true, we can adjust."

If the program cannot be held in person, Martinez said its academic aspect can easily be adjusted to be conducted remotely, since Penn professors already have experience teaching courses online. 

The March 15 application deadline will remain in place because of early internship deadlines, Martinez said, adding that most of the internships require security clearances, and students therefore must apply at least six months in advance.

Martinez explained that ensuring students' safety will be one of the program's main challenges, considering that the students will be living in Washington and working in large institutions without the resources that are provided on campus. 

In past years, students have interned at places such as the Department of State, the Department of Justice, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and offices of various senators and house representatives, according to a powerpoint attached in the March 3 email.

"I have spoken to many students who wrote about PIW when they applied to Penn, and they really want to have that immersive experience as undergraduates," Martinez said. "I hope that can be possible."