Eastern Mennonite University professor Mark Sawin (left) and Washington Community Scholars’ Center Assistant Director Ryan Good (middle) listen to a presentation at an internship site during a visit of university administrators and faculty to the Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC) program. (Katey Ebaugh)

Washington Community Scholars’ Center visit showcases student internships

A contingent of Eastern Mennonite University administrators and faculty recently got a taste of what Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC) program participants gain: a sampling of the culture and history of Washington D.C. coupled with practical, on-the-job experience.

Based in the Nelson Good House in the Brookland neighborhood, WCSC hosts students each semester and over the summer from EMU and other partner institutions. It’s been a valued program since the 1970s.

The event was an opportunity for President Susan Schultz Huxman, in her ninth month in office, to meet program faculty and staff and hear from alumni about its impact. Undergraduate Dean Deirdre Smeltzer, as well as five faculty members, also made the trip.

The day included a presentation by WCSC director Kimberly Schmidt, visits to internship sites, a Nelson Good house tour and a meet-and-greet evening with university and program alumni.  

Living and working in D.C.

Among those attending were President Susan Schultz Huxman and Deirdre Smeltzer, undergraduate dean; and professors Deanna Durham, Jenni Holsinger and Melody Pannell, applied social sciences; Chad Gusler, language and literature; and Mark Sawin, history.

Lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant on the H Street Corridor ended with a quick history lesson from Schmidt, offering a peek into the urban seminar courses that students take at WCSC. Schmidt described the stretch of businesses now gentrifying nearly five decades after riots decimated the African-American commercial hub.  

The group then made visits to two intern sites. In a plaza near the Capitol, social work major Peter Dutcher described his 5:45 a.m. runs with Back on My Feet, an organization that supports those experiencing homelessness through an innovative running program. EMU visitors formed a circle reminiscent of the program’s routine morning member circle while Dutcher and his supervisor described the organization’s impacts and the broader world experiences that such internships offer.

At the historic Episcopal Center for Children, Bluffton student Anna Cammarn has been applying her majors in both music and psychology in a unique music therapy role serving students with behavioral needs.

“From the time I was a freshman in college, I didn’t know if I wanted to be a music therapist or a clinical psychologist,” Cammarn told the group. “Interning at this institution has made me realize that even though I am not a music therapy major, this profession is something I can do with my life.”

Program alums continue their support

After a meet-and-greet with local alumni, the group moved to the Nelson Good House for hors d’oeuvres and continued conversation.

Phil Baker-Shenk was a participant in 1976-77 to Washington Study Service Year, a year-long program that was the precursor to today’s WCSC.

“I haven’t stopped dreaming big out-sized dreams about building and nurturing institutions,” he said. “Without WSSY, this path and these dreams would not have been possible for me. WSSY and its younger sibling WCSC is surely one of the gems in the Mennonite crown. […] Let’s all guard this crown jewel.”  

Recent alum Kiersten Rossetto Nassar shared how visiting the Nelson Good House during her college search process impacted her decision to attend EMU. She spent a semester in the program, which eventually led her to make her home nearby in the city.  

Alums and supporters also heard updates from Associate Director of Development Tim Swartzendruber about the growth of the new WCSC scholarship endowment and the potential to start awarding program scholarships to break down cost of living barriers to students with financial need.