By: Kelley Downes

Hi! My name is Kelley Downes and I am a senior from Atlanta, Georgia. I am majoring in Political Science with an Applied Politics Certificate and minoring in both International Affairs and Criminal Justice Studies. As I round out my second to last semester at UGA, it seems like a fitting time to reflect on my experience as a SPIA undergraduate student. The courses I have taken, professors I have met, and students I have interacted with in SPIA have truly changed my life for the better. I know I will leave SPIA with a better understanding of the world around me and the skills needed to make a real impact. For the sake of brevity, I want to focus on three specific programs I did while at UGA: the Washington Semester Program, the SPIA Maymester program in Stellenbosch, and the Applied Politics Program. All of these programs were first introduced to me by either SPIA professors or other SPIA students.

I did the Washington Semester Program during the fall of my junior year in 2021. I interned with the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia in their criminal division, and I was able to earn eight hours of course credit for this internship through SPIA. During this program, I gained real world work experience in the legal field and I had the unique opportunity to meet UGA alumni who are living and working in DC. I did SPIA’s Maymester program in Stellenbosch, South Africa this past May. SPIA professors Dr. Wilhelm and Dr. Ariotti ensured all students left South Africa with a better understanding of its political history. These two professors taught me so much and they are also just great people to be around! While I was in South Africa, I had the opportunity to travel throughout the country and learn from people who had lived there for their entire lives. Finally, I just completed the Applied Politics Program this past semester and I can not speak higher of it. Dr. Haynes, Professor Watson, and Dr. Cottrell prepared me for a career working in politics. Dr. Haynes created an environment for students to network with professionals in the field; I learned more about what exactly it is I want to do following graduation because of this program.

The Washington Semester Program, the SPIA Maymester program in Stellenbosch, and the Applied Politics program all shaped my college experience in very distinct ways, and I would have never discovered these opportunities if it had not been for the support system I found in SPIA.