Georgetown Magazine: Destination: DC

In its Spring 2023 issue, Georgetown Magazine spotlights the Capitol Applied Learning Labs (CALL) program, a local immersion program that integrates traditional classroom and applied learning to prepare students of all socioeconomic backgrounds for life as a working professional. Comparable to a study abroad experience, the CALL is open to all Georgetown undergraduates and incoming transfers and offers students the opportunity to live, learn, and work near internship opportunities in the heart of downtown Washington, DC.

Related: Photo essay: An inside look at life as a Georgetown student in the CALL >

Although college can be the most reliable pathway to economic mobility, a college degree alone is often not enough to land a good job. Low-income and first-generation students and students from historically underrepresented communities face systemic hurdles and significant disadvantages in finding meaningful employment after graduation and earn less at those jobs than their peers. This career achievement gap is due, in part, to uneven access to internships, which can be difficult to attain as many positions are unpaid, occur during class times, and are difficult to reach from the Hilltop using public transportation.

Beyond the typical classroom experience

As part of Georgetown’s dedication to removing barriers to education and career success, the CALL bridges this equity gap by serving students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, especially those who might not otherwise be able to participate in an off-campus learning experience. The CALL students spend 20-30 hours a week in credit-bearing internships related to their fields of interest and 10 hours a week in a combination of classroom learning and group activities that encourage CALL students to explore the city as a community. Students also have access to career mentoring opportunities available throughout the semester and experiential learning opportunities through the Prisons and Justice Initiative and Georgetown’s Earth Commons Institute.

“DC is the only place where you can be a citizen on both the local and national level,” says Abigail Lewis, founding director of the CALL. “We want students to think about what it means to be a citizen, to engage with a city or town, and take that ideology to wherever they go after Georgetown.”  

The CALL concept emerged in 2018 at the Red House, Georgetown’s incubator for education innovation and equity. A year later, the program launched with an inaugural cohort of six students. This past year, the program, which hosted over 75 students in the 2022-2023 academic year, opened its new student dormitory at 55 H Street NW located near Georgetown’s Capitol Campus. The new facility includes state-of-the-art study and lounge areas and indoor and outdoor classrooms. The CALL students take classes downtown at 500 First Street NW or at the School for Continuing Studies, although some students choose to take a class on the Hilltop. 

An ongoing partnership with the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP) has helped the program expand its reach and enable GSP students, many of whom are first-generation college students, to accept unpaid internships without incurring financial hardship.

The CALL’s Idol Family Summer Fellowship Program also helps students with high-financial need who are interested in full-time summer internships in Washington, DC. Fellows receive housing and stipends to cover summer expenses so that they may participate in unpaid internships. The program supports 16 new students each summer and offers professional development seminars, networking opportunities, and off-campus social events.

“We are really trying to define what an experiential undergraduate education looks like,” says Susanna McGowan, director of curriculum transformation initiatives at the Red House. “In our work with the CALL, we are learning how to leverage DC’s resources to connect students with what’s happening in the city and around the world.”

Read the full Georgetown Magazine story to learn more about the CALL and its work to integrate internship experiences and professional development courses into academic work for all students.

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