Lorella Praeli’s story is one Scott McLean likes to tell.
Praeli was a freshman at Quinnipiac University and wanted to attend The Washington Center’s “First 100 Days” seminar in May 2009. To make that happen, McLean would have to break one of his unwritten rules: He prefers that students have a few years of college under their belts before taking part in a TWC program.
He made the exception for Praeli.
Fast forward to January 2017. Praeli was again inside The Washington Center, but this time she was speaking to Quinnipiac students involved in TWC’s Inauguration ‘17 seminar.
In those eight years, that young woman had gone from being an undocumented immigrant to a U.S. citizen. She had worked for United We Dream, a Washington-based organization that, according to its website, seeks to address “the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth.” Last year, she served as director of Latino outreach for the Clinton campaign.
McLean said that Praeli’s “activism and professionalism” are traits he wants other students to see and mimic. And an experiential learning opportunity is a great way to lay that foundation.
More than three-dozen Quinnipiac students are involved in this Inauguration ‘17 seminar. McLean knows why being in Washington matters.
“The students not only will see how Washington works, but they’ll also understand that they can navigate all of this,” McLean said. “And by navigate I mean not just getting around the city geographically but also policy wise” because of the different political perspectives they’ll encounter.
McLean is a professor of political science at Quinnipiac. Like many college instructors, McLean saw students deal with varying emotions during the 2016 political season.
“I often heard them ask why [the country] couldn’t get past the Twitter attacks,” he said. “They felt the election was about which candidate had the worse character.” As a result, a serious discussion of the issues never seemed possible.
Through TWC’s program, serious discussions about lobbying, ethics, climate issues, the Middle East, the media and more are being had. The seminar ends on Friday, when students can attend Donald Trump’s inauguration as America’s 45th president.
“The spectacle of Washington” will be on display, McLean said. The inauguration “is not just a television picture. It’s a ritual, and the audience has a role to play.”