In December of 2014, then-assistant Vice President for University Events Jennifer Richwine moved to Washington, D.C. to begin the nearly three-year process of establishing Wake Forest’s physical presence in the nation’s capital.
She spoke with dozens of alumni, students and potential employers before the administration decided to launch a formal study-away program in the city. They then spent almost two years securing and renovating a space before the inaugural cohort of students arrived in August 2017.
A dozen pictures of the Winston-Salem campus were added just last Wednesday to finally complete the space.
The Wake Washington Center — located at the memorable address of 1 Dupont Circle — is the new hub for thousands of Wake Forest alumni who live in the D.C. area and the growing number of current students who plan to work or study there. It also serves as a home base for 16 students participating a semester-long study-away program which combines internships with academic courses.
“Not only are we opening a new facility and providing extraordinary opportunities for our students, we are building important bridges between the campus and Washington, D.C.,” said University President Nathan O. Hatch.
Students currently enrolled in the Wake Washington program participate in internships four days a week and attend class Monday and Wednesday night with faculty director and politics professor Katy Harriger. On Fridays, the group gets exclusive insight into D.C. through a series of guest lectures and field trips.
This semester’s focus is politics, but future semesters will alternate through a variety of subjects including communications and art history.
The embedded internship experience is a cornerstone of Wake Washington. Current students work in a diverse number of places, ranging from the office of Congressman Dave Price to the Kennedy Center.
Savannah Baber, a junior majoring in English and political science, is interning with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
“It’s really cool to see the behind-the-scenes work,” Baber said. “I am learning the actual practical process of creating legislation from the people who do it every day.”
This first-hand experience is critical, according to Andy Chan, vice president of innovation and career development at Wake Forest. It helps students prepare for successful careers, gain confidence in their aspirations post-graduation and begin to form a professional network.
D.C. is a city that runs on connections and networking.
“It is not uncommon to hear an alumni say they got their first job, second job [or] third job through a Wake Forest connection,” Richwine said.
The Wake Washington Center will help current students connect with a robust alumni network while also providing alumni with opportunities to mentor students, connect with peers and learn from Wake Forest faculty.
In addition to her classes with current Wake Forest students this fall, Harriger is teaching workshops at the Center for alumni and parents on topics including the Supreme Court, deliberative dialogue and special prosecutors.
“[The Center] will fortify our alumni network,” said Jonathan Willingham ’03, the president of the Wake Washington community. “Its creation is a necessary step to enhance and broaden the Wake Forest experience.”
Richwine is now executive director of the Wake Washington Center, where she runs daily administration, acts as the liaison for student internships and furthers alumni engagement.
An overwhelming number of alumni she speaks with want to give back to Wake Forest by helping the next generation of students. They share expertise and connections to make a student’s path to D.C. just a little easier than it was for them.
“That’s the Wake Forest way,” Richwine said. “That’s Pro Humanitate lived out and I get to experience that every day here in the nation’s capital.”