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Updated 3:00 PM May 2, 2006
 

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Class of '06: D.C. experience a life-changing moment

A year ago history major Matthew Kundinger did not see many career opportunities for himself beyond academics. As he completes an internship for the Michigan in Washington Program, however, options now include public policy or legislative affairs.
Kundinger (Photo courtesy Matthew Kundinger)

"This gave me the best opportunity going into my senior year," says the 21-year-old Elk Rapids native.

The Michigan in Washington Program offers opportunities to U-M undergraduates to spend a semester in the nation's capitol, combining coursework with field research in an internship that reflects their areas of interest.

"The program is a wonderful opportunity for students to work in non-profit advocacy groups, federal agencies and congressional offices," says Margaret Howard, program manager.

Classes are unique to Washington—something a student might not get in Ann Arbor. Kundinger has been in "The Theater of Politics/Politics in the Theater" class this semester. Every other week, he and his classmates go to a live performance at Ford's Theater, the Shakespeare Theater, and Arena Stage, where they visit the cast, director and producer after most of the performances.

With nine credits left to fulfill his undergraduate requirements, Kundinger learned about the program through an e-mail from an LSA adviser.

"It excited me. I liked the idea of getting into public policy, and it appeared the internship might increase my chances of securing a job after graduation," he says.

Since Jan. 10, he has interned in the Government Accountability Office. He works with four people investigating how charities—mainly the American Red Cross—worked with one another and government agencies, including FEMA, following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He could not disclose the group's findings—which might be given to Congress—but earlier this month the Red Cross announced plans to change its disaster relief program after criticism about alleged internal waste and abuse following Hurricane Katrina.

"I wanted to do something that I can be proud of, that I felt was making a positive impact," says Kundinger, whose internship ends May 28. "I see myself either in a position that has the ability to affect policy or as a lawyer persuading people, possibly juries, about the rightness of my cause."

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