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Capital Steps

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Spring 2002
Capital Steps
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FALL 2001 was a milestone quarter, not only for the students — many of them had never been to Washington — but for the program itself. It marked the inauguration of the new $37-million University of California Washington Center, an 11-story, 106,000-square-foot building in Washington's trendy Dupont Circle neighborhood, a Mecca for young professionals. For the first time, all 223 students participating in similar programs from eight UC campuses had the chance to live and learn together in the heart of the nation's capital. Previously, students lived in apartments in suburban Virginia and commuted into the city for classes or sightseeing.

The greatest advantage of having the building — which is to be officially dedicated April 23 — is that students no longer have to commute 20 to 45 minutes on the Metro subway, says Larry Berman, a UC Davis political science professor and director of the UC Washington Center. Not only do students not have to take the Metro late at night, but they can also grab a bite to eat in their rooms — equipped with full kitchens - before heading to the computer lab or a class. "It's changed their whole essence," Berman says. "That, to me, is the biggest change. Everything is together."

Indeed, the building is like a miniature UC. While administrators paired students from the same campus as roommates, they mixed students from different campuses together on each floor. Although security is tight these days, the atmosphere in the building is casual. It's not unusual to see students at work in the computer lab late at night wearing slippers, or wandering the halls in their pajamas. "This is their home," Berman emphasizes. "There is no dress code. Even I come down to my office in slippers sometimes."

That informality and accessibility "is really great," says philosophy major Melody Ehsani '02, who interned with the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. "For the first time, I have really been able to establish a relationship with my professor, and I feel that he cares about what we do." The experience, she says, has been highly "interactive."

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