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Civic Scholars journey to DC for first time since 2019

In early January, a group of 32 Civic Scholars traveled to Washington, DC to visit Capitol Hill and witness in-depth policymaking in action, to meet the elected officials who represent St. Louis and Missouri, and to meet and learn from DC community and neighborhood leaders. 

A hallmark of the Civic Scholars Program is the opportunity to travel to Washington DC for a four-day immersion trip. Last month, 32 Class of 2024 and 2025 Civic Scholars learned about the federal policymaking process at the heart of where it takes place, met with federal representatives of St. Louis and Missouri, and discussed community engagement with DC neighborhood leaders and advocates. 

It was the first time since 2019 that the trip happened, an opportunity that Civic Engagement Manager Otto Brown got to experience now as a staff member after participating in Civic Scholars as a student in 2019. 

“I learned a lot about different perspectives on the policymaking process that I hope to incorporate into our election programming on campus. Being on the staff side and seeing all that goes into planning and executing a trip like this gives me lots of admiration and appreciation for our team and those who planned and implemented immersion trips for me when I was a student,” Brown said. 

Brown, Associate Director for Civic Engagement Alannah Glickman and graduate student staff Elijah Beal worked together to create a packed itinerary filled with guest speakers, community engagement, as well as a full day at Capitol Hill.  On Jan. 10, the group walked to Capitol Hill, where they were able to sit in on sessions with the Senate and House of Representatives. The Civic Scholars met with elected officials from either Missouri or Illinois and their staff. Among the officials were Senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois, Senator Eric Schmitt from Missouri, Senator Eric Schmitt from Missouri, Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri, Representative Ann Wagner from Missouri, Representative Cori Bush from Missouri, and Representative Emanuel Cleaver from Missouri.  

“This immersion trip deepened my understanding of civic engagement and federal policymaking, by actually allowing me to be on the ground and in the rooms where it all happens. It is one thing to see how the process plays out on television and another in real life and hear from people who are actually engaged in this line of work,” said Fox-Clark Civic Scholar Matthew Inman ‘24.  

Students were able to absorb and learn from their surroundings while at Capitol Hill. Split into three small groups, the scholars shadowed representatives and senators that made a career out of the civically minded values that they share. No matter their ideological stance, there was a policymaker to represent a diverse variety of issues.  

“Sometimes, I find it hard to envision a future for myself where I don’t go crazy if I keep working on the things I care about. But seeing people who do just that and at such a high level, with the close proximity to the worst of politics, makes it seem like something that is manageable,” said Matthew Boyd ‘24, a Fox-Clark Civic Scholar. 

The immersion trip to D.C. helped to shape people’s perceptions on D.C. and the work that is done there in addition to re-shaping preconceived notions on the types of people that work in the Capitol. 

“This had been my first trip to DC so it was a formative experience is how I perceived Washington D.C. as a city and community. Learning about both the work being done towards social change and the federal policy changes being made was influential in how I perceived DC. The ability to see both aspects helped reinforce my understanding how federal policy change is and community engagement are both equally necessary for social change in different ways,” said Stern Family Civic Scholar Lojain Elkhidir ‘25. 

Through engagement at community institutions such as Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library and Columbia Heights’ Participatory Action Workshop, Civic Scholars were able to see the social change implemented by community members every day. Even more impactful might have been the opportunity for scholars to interact and speak with civic leaders both at Capitol Hill and beyond Capitol Hill. 

“I’m incredibly proud of how the Civic Scholars engaged with a wide range of civic leaders, from elected officials to lobbyists to community leaders,” Glickman said. “They asked thoughtful yet probing questions and remained curious and open to learn from all the different experiences. I’m excited to see how this experience will shape students’ civic leadership journeys on campus and beyond.”