The Marquette Effect Across the Nation: Domestic Study Abroad








By: Kyerstin Hill

While we have continued to see the “Marquette Nation” spread around the world through the wide variety of study abroad programs, the concept of domestic study abroad has become increasingly popular at Marquette, especially through the Les Aspin Center’s Washington, D.C., program.

The Les Aspin Center is an internship program that provides students with a combination of coursework, work experience on Capitol Hill and surrounding political workplaces. While the most popular program is in D.C., the Les Aspin Center also offers internship opportunities in Milwaukee and Africa. The program was designed to give students a glimpse into the working world of politics.

Christopher Murray, lecturer and coordinator of student affairs for the Les Aspin program, offers an administrative opinion on the program and its growing popularity at Marquette.

“Students have become increasingly interested in politics and public policy in recent years,” Murray says. “There are probably several reasons for this, including the legacy of 9/11, the emphasis of President Obama on young voters and policy issues like education funding, health care and climate change that students gravitate to.”

Although all majors are welcome to apply, the Les Aspin program is geared toward students who are interested in politics, the government or students who are looking for a study abroad experience without going too far from home, which is one aspect senior James Ford, attending the College of Business, found appealing.

“I really liked the idea because it was kind of a cheaper version of studying abroad during which you have an internship,” Ford says. “So, I thought it would be a good way to get my first internship while being able to get away from the campus life and learn the world.”

The economics and finance major recalls there being a large sense of community in D.C., despite being 795 miles away from campus.

“A lobbyist that went to Marquette and worked with my firm invited me to his house,” Ford says. “I went with a couple of people from work for a little fundraiser for a congressman. It was awesome. He introduced me to the congressman, offered me a Leinenkugel or Spotted Cow, and we ate brats.”

Being halfway across the country mixed with some of Milwaukee’s signature refreshments while networking with influential people in government can be credited to the way that the Marquette family has spread across the nation.

College of Arts & Sciences Junior Claire Ross agrees Marquette’s values are woven tightly into the Les Aspin program.

“The aspect that attracted me to Marquette was their emphasis on social justice and service.” Ross says. “Les Aspin has a course titled “Urban and Social Issues,” and it examines Washington, D.C.’s social programs such as child welfare, poverty, unemployment and chronic illness. The course shows the intersection between public policy and social justice, which is my passion. This course really recognizes Marquette’s emphasis on social justice and educating students on the issues that exist and how we can find solutions through public policy to mend these issues.”

As Murray explains, “The Aspin Center is premised on the belief that public service is a virtue and that leadership is required to make our communities and country better. Our best students bring that with them to D.C. and the experience further magnifies these commitments and gives students more outlets to express them.”

Ross not only saw Marquette’s emphasis on service across the U.S., but also experienced it across the world. She spent her summer and will spend her fall semester in South Africa working for the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, an oversight group for the South African Parliament.

And like Ross, Ford was able to apply the networking skills he gained from the program back at Marquette. He spent this past summer interning for a Marquette alumnus.

Over the past 14 years, Murray has seen more than 2,000 students participate in the program and understands the unique path it provides to students. While “finding themselves” and figuring out what they want to do with the rest of their lives is a big factor in any college experience, the Les Aspin program gives students a bit more.

“It benefits students in that it begins to focus them on what they want to devote their lives to after Marquette,” Murray says. “The Aspin Center experience is very intense by design.  We want our students to begin figuring out where their passions and interests are and give them the resources to begin pursuing them.”