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PSCI 398 will meet at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C. Credit: William Snow

Penn Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel will co-teach a new course this spring that will require students to travel to Washington every Friday.

The course, PSCI 398: How Washington Really Works, will include an equal number of students from Penn and George Mason University, and will be co-taught by Emanuel and George Mason University professor Steve Pearlstein, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post. Students from each university will be required to travel from their respective campuses to the Penn Biden Center in Washington each Friday for class from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

Penn and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Paideia Program will provide transportation for Penn students, either by Amtrak stipends or a bus, Emanuel said in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

While George Mason's campus is about 40 minutes from the Penn Biden Center, it takes about two and a half hours to arrive from Penn's campus, thus taking up the majority of the day on Friday. Still, Emanuel said he hopes that a high number of students are interested in the course.

"The reason we really want to do this course actually in D.C. is the sense of that if you're not inside Washington, you really have no idea how Washington actually works," he said. 

The course will feature a number of high profile speakers, with potential speakers listed on the course summary including renowned infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and former liberal think tank president Neera Tanden, who advises President Joe Biden.

Emanuel said that given the unique nature of the class, students who want to enroll must write a paragraph explaining their interest before registering. He said the paragraph, the prioritization of older students, and his goal of having a "diversity of opinions" in the class will decide the 24 students from Penn.

The course will study how policy decisions are made in Washington through a series of eight policy case studies ranging from the 1957 Civil Rights Act to Obamacare. After working at the intersection of health care and policy for a number of years, Emanuel said he found many people lack knowledge about how policy is actually made.

The course will also teach students how to read the news, something Emanuel said he finds many people do not truly understand.

"When you read an article in the newspaper there are so many motives to consider. Who is quoted in the article? Who tipped it? Why did they tip it?" Emanuel said. "If you're not in Washington, you just don't understand this stuff."

Each class will be split into three one-hour sections: one hour of lecture and presentation by Emanuel and Pearlstein, one hour of lunch — provided by the universities — with the guest speaker, and a final hour for group discussion.

Emanuel said he and Pearlstein have long wanted to co-teach a course, particularly one that would bring the Penn and George Mason student bodies together to learn from one another. Pearlstein is a decorated journalist and someone who "knows all there is to know about how things work in D.C," making him a great person to teach the course with, Emanuel said.

"Steve [Pearlstein] and I have a lot of experience combined. He knows Washington in a way very few others really do. So for us, it is sort of exciting to bring all of this experience together to teach this course," Emanuel said.

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