Graduate students taking the Interfaces of Global Change capstone class this fall recently attended a Congressional Operations Seminar in Washington, DC, offered by the Woods Institute. The objective of the seminar was to provide the participants with a comprehensive understanding of the congressional legislative and budget processes, with an emphasis on issues relevant to the environment and natural resources. For students considering a career in the public policy arena, or just generally concerned with how science informs policy at the federal government level, the workshop provided a 2-day, front-seat view of lawmaking.

IGC fellows provided these thoughts about the experience:

  • I thought I knew how Congress operates. I was surprised by how much I learned about how things move through committees and ultimately to legislation.
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to sit in on senate proceedings and committee meetings. The only real hurdle to accessing these things is interest!
  • A major thing that I took away from the experience: putting a human face on Washington DC! We hear about what’s happening in that city everyday in the news, but ultimately its people who are taking these actions and making these decisions.
  • The exposure to the legislative process on Capitol Hill was insightful, as I constantly drew parallels between how Congress and the Parliament of my home country, Ghana, worked.
  • Our interaction with the staff from Congressional Research Service (CRS) was particularly refreshing in knowing that through their effort, sound science was available to Members of Congress in their decision-making.
  • It was extremely beneficial to talk to individuals who work on Capital Hill with a scientific background, and hear about their careers and how they can play a role in policy making. Specifically, I found that talking with individuals working in the Congressional Research Service was very eye opening.
  • This trip highlighted the importance of knowing how to communicate research results effectively and knowing who to communicate those results to also.
  • Getting to sit in on Senate hearings had a big impact on me. It’s good to see how transparent government activity can be. I have a much higher view of the  American system of government after seeing it in action, and hearing from people who spend a great deal of time thinking about these matters
IGC in DC: Congressional Operations Seminar