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Illustration of the US Capitol Building dome

Talking Beltway Politics

Students examine the evolution of American politics in Washington, D.C.

Are you thinking about a career in politics? Want to see how political strategies are made? Want a better sense of how interpersonal relationships forge policy and create public meaning?

Beltway Politics, an online course taught by Douglas Harris, Ph.D., professor of political science, examines the culture and community “inside the beltway” including national identity, public memory, and national politics and policy. Students will study the ways in which Washington, D.C., was planned, developed, and continues to function as a center for national conversation and governance.

Beltway Politics offers students a first taste of what politics is actually like in Washington, D.C., and an opportunity to interact with professionals working inside the D.C. beltway.

The online experience will feature virtual tours, interactions with professionals working as political operatives, advocates, and policymakers in Washington, as well as readings and video content that create a laboratory of creative and elevated learning.

“This course is unique in its intensive connection with people who are actually engaged in the world of politics,” said Harris. “Connecting traditional academic learning with interactive online elements helps to humanize the content and, hopefully, allows students to imagine a career in politics for themselves.”

Harris will also incorporate Loyola’s Jesuit values by asking his students to ponder questions surrounding social justice, ethics, and how to be contemplative in their public and political actions.

Why would a student want to take this class?

Beltway Politics offers students a first taste of what politics is actually like in Washington, D.C., and an opportunity to interact with professionals working inside the D.C. beltway. Students will experience how Washington has changed throughout history and examine the construction of public memory and meaning-making in America.

How do you bring the topic to life for students?

During the online course, students will have the opportunity to interview and hear from working professionals in Washington, D.C. Guest speakers, such as national news producers and congressional correspondents, will use Zoom to bring real-world experiences to life for students. Additional speakers will include congressional staff, those who have worked in the Obama and Trump administrations, and a number of lobbyists and advocates, who will talk about their own D.C. experiences and connect to overarching course themes.

How will this class help prepare students—in both the short-term and in the long-term?

This is an upper-level political science course that deals with national politics, and will examine separation of power politics and inter-branch relationships, the creation of public memory, and provide an orientation to Washington, D.C., as a center of political action. It’s especially appropriate for students who are contemplating an internship or future career in national politics or those who just really like national politics.

Describe a topic that students will explore in class.

We’ll look into how polarization has changed politics and policymaking. Looking back in history, we will see a Washington that operated by consensus and cooperation across party lines. We will ask what parts of D.C. culture facilitated that, why they went away, and how contemporary political actors view partisanship and polarization.

We also consider the production of public memory. With every new museum exhibit, every monument or memorial, and every news account of a protest, D.C.-based designers, curators, and reporters redefine what America means. What is hopeful and tragic in the Lincoln Memorial? What is left on the editing room floor when curators describe exhibits at the museum of American history? Whose interests are emphasized and whose are forgotten in coverage of protests? Beltway Politics will address such questions because Washington, D.C., is a key location where public memory is nurtured and meaning is made.

Photograph of the Statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial

What makes this online course particularly compelling?

In addition to interacting with and hearing from political professionals, students will read and watch professor-written essays that guide students through documentary clips, official videos, and YouTube clips, all of which were curated to take you behind-the-scenes of Washington. These virtual tours of Washington, D.C., the U.S. Capitol, and other key locations allow students to experience Beltway Politics up close.

Learn More About Loyola's Political Science Program