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Alternative Spring Breaks and Fostering Interest in National Policy

Last week, we hosted Sarah Pipes, a master’s student from the School of Information at the University of Michigan for her “alternative spring break.”  This year, about 60 I-School students made the trek from Ann Arbor to Washington to spend a week in various government and non-profit organizations inside the beltway.  I’m sure that they had a great time — much better to attend a Congressional hearing than lay on the beach, right?

Seriously, though, this program is a fantastic opportunity for students to obtain a glimpse into the “real world” of Washington (this is not a joke — there is really such a thing!).  Sarah, for instance, attended our weekly status meeting on telecommunications policy — where we hash out our positions in the most direct (i.e., not for public consumption) way.  She also participated in a briefing that we held on Capitol Hill that week, met with several representatives from other national policy organizations, and worked on a short report about these organizations.  My sense is that it was a well-spent week for her.

And the benefits run both ways.  The Washington Office benefited by having someone with a fresh perspective and questions.  There is also the big picture benefit:  One of our key objectives is to foster greater understanding, appreciation, and involvement for national policy advocacy and lobbying among library and information professionals and students.  Programs such as Alternative Spring Break have great value for the hosts as well as for the hosted.  Thank you to Sarah and the University of Michigan.

Alan S. Inouye
Director, Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP)

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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