Washington Policy Design Studio

The Washington Policy Design Studio (POS 494) is a unique, semester-long course that simulates the experience of working in a U.S. embassy overseas.  The focus for Spring 2021 will be the uniquely important U.S. bilateral relationship with Russia, including an in-depth look into areas of competition and cooperation between the two countries. From your instructors, U.S. Government officials, and other Washington-based experts, you will gain insight into the challenges that will face the next Administration in areas such as:   strategic arms control; Russia’s assertion of power beyond its borders; Russian interference in U.S. and other countries’ elections; democracy, human rights, and corruption in Russia; economic and energy policies; and many other issues.

PDS leverages the McCain Institute’s vast network and extensive foreign and security policy expertise. Students work directly with Professors of Practice Ambassador Edward O’Donnell and Ambassador Rod Moore, both retired career Foreign Service Officers. The course also fosters connections across the Washington D.C. policy community, as students engage regularly with a variety of guest speakers who are subject-matter experts in the public, private, and governmental sectors.

Students participate in a three-hour weekly seminar, immersing themselves in the highly-creative and intense exercise of learning the process of foreign policy decision making. Students are assigned the actual roles of team members working at a U.S. embassy and manage a reality-based diplomatic agenda. Previous country teams have included Afghanistan, Germany, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, the DRC, United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Israel. Together with Ambassadors O’Donnell and Moore, students practice how foreign policy is developed and executed in the field.  As a capstone to the course, students design and recommend solutions to real-world foreign policy issues related to Russia and present their policy recommendations to a panel of expert practitioners.

The PDS course also takes advantage of the McCain Institute’s unique mission of preserving the legacy of the late Arizona Senator John McCain and his lifelong commitment to serving causes greater than self. In addition to learning about foreign policy, PDS students also receive extensive character-driven leadership training led by U.S. Army Lieutenant General (ret) Benjamin Freakley, senior advisor to ASU President Michael Crow. Students will learn not only the skills they need to lead, but also the importance of the values and ethics that define them as young leaders.

Formerly taught in Washington, D.C. the course is currently being held remotely over Zoom during COVID for the safety of ASU students. The Spring 2021 course is a unique opportunity for students in any major to gain valuable skills and hands-on foreign affairs, teamwork and leadership experience. The three-hour credit course is open to ASU sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a 3.0 GPA and with permission from the course instructors. Interested students should contact Ambassador Edward O’Donnell at the School of Politics and Global Studies and submit a Google form outlining their interest in the course and how the course aligns with their future goals.

In addition to one day of intense coursework each week, students have the option of participating in a virtual internship for up to four days a week at an organization in Washington for additional credit hours (POS 484). Previous students have interned at federal government departments, law firms, lobbying firms, advocacy groups, media outlets and nonprofit organizations. While the internship is optional, many students find it an enriching extension of their PDS class experience. The internship course will also be mentored and graded by Ambassador O’Donnell and Ambassador Moore.  Students interested in pursuing a virtual internship should contact Gisela Grant at [email protected].

In The Arena – Episode 22: Ambassador O’Donnell

Ambassador Ed O’Donnell (Ret.) talks about how he wielded the tools of diplomacy in his action-packed career, and names the character-driven leaders who inspired and impacted him the most…

Prior to COVID-19, Policy Design Studio was a full-semester, immersive program held in Washington, D.C., which is reflected in the photos above. Once it becomes safe again to convene in-person, PDS will return to its original format.

(1) Spring 2019 class visiting the Embassy of Germany; (2) Spring 2016 class visiting Senator McCain’s office; (3) Megan Kelly, Spring 2016 – Vietnam, Fulbright Scholar in Vietnam; (4) Matthew Jernstedt, Spring 2018 – Afghanistan, Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship; (5)Nikki Hinshaw, Fall 2018 – Israel, Craig and Barbara Barrett Scholarship Recipient; (6) Alec Guthrie, Spring 2018 – Afghanistan, ASU Master of Arts in Global Security

ASUNow - McCain Institute Gettysburg - 3/28/2018 
General Benjamin Freakley speaks about canons used and the power required to man them in the U.S. Civil War at Oak Ridge during a visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park on Wednesday morning March 28th, 2018 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The McCain Institute's policy design studio focuses on using the study of the battle of Gettysburg and how it relates to leadership, policy and understand of U.S. government. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASUNow