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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

From Downtown to the Hilltop: CALL Transfers Reflect on Campus Experiences

One month into their first semester on Georgetown’s main campus, this fall’s cohort of CALL transfer students is reflecting on their time downtown and transition to the Hilltop.

Of the new cohort of transfer students that joined Georgetown University this fall, eight began their academic journey beyond the Hilltop.

The university accepts a small number of transfer students annually into the Capitol Applied Learning Labs (CALL), a program in downtown Washington, D.C., which allows them to gain professional experience while still earning a semester of credits toward their undergraduate degree.

Although the CALL first welcomed transfer students in Fall 2021, it officially launched the “CALL Transfer First” program in Fall 2023 for select transfers to spend their first semester at the CALL. Transfer applicants interested in the CALL can submit a short response when applying to Georgetown to be considered for the program.

Kara Howey (CAS ’26), a CALL transfer, said the university denied her request to spend her first semester at the main campus following her acceptance.

“We were told it was either the CALL first semester or nothing,” Howey wrote to The Hoya. “I was honestly so grateful to have been accepted that I would have gone anywhere temporarily.”

Although the CALL was not his first choice, Henry Morgan (CAS ’26) said he was excited to attend Georgetown — regardless of which campus — after initially being waitlisted.

“I would have preferred to be accepted to the Hilltop, but I got waitlisted,” Morgan wrote to The Hoya. “A week later, I got an email that said I was a serious contender for acceptance to the CALL. Around a week after that, I got my official acceptance, which was contingent on starting at the CALL.”

One month into their first semester on Georgetown’s main campus, this fall’s cohort of transfer students is reflecting on their time at the CALL and transition to the Hilltop.

CALLing Transfers Downtown

The CALL offers four categories of courses: professional seminars, which integrate work experience like internships and research fellowships into the classroom; city seminars, which enable students to learn by exploring D.C.; CALL workshops, which teach specialized career skills and knowledge; and CALL electives, which are primarily government, journalism and women’s and gender studies classes, along with a few core requirements.

CALL students must take one professional seminar, one city seminar and two CALL workshops for their first nine credits. They are expected to fill the rest of their schedule with two additional CALL courses, which can range from “Women and Leadership” to “Congressional Reporting.”

Jovi Bahnan (CAS ’26), a transfer student who started at the CALL, said her favorite part of the program was the opportunities for experiential learning in the CALL courses.

“I came from a really big school before I moved to Georgetown, so going to the CALL was very much different because CALL classes are so much smaller,” Bahnan told The Hoya. “It was definitely a different experience, but one thing I really liked was that they were all immersive and very hands-on.”

Bahnan said many of her CALL professors would either bring guest speakers to the classroom or take students on visits to sites around the District.

“For example, for my U.S. law class, we had all these different lawyers from various fields come to us, or we’d visit them in their offices, so that was really cool and unique, even compared to classes at the Hilltop,” Bahnan said.

The CALL courses take place at 500 First St. NW, a building that Georgetown acquired in 2019 when the program launched. The program is expected to relocate to 111 Massachusetts Ave. NW when it opens next fall. This new building, acquired by Georgetown in 2021, will also house other programs, including the School of Continuing Studies and the Earth Commons Institute.

All CALL students, including transfers, live a few blocks away from their current instructional building at 55 H St. NW, where they are typically assigned their own single bedroom within a shared apartment.

Sydney duKor-Jackson (CAS ’25) said the apartments’ convenient location and proximity to public transportation allowed her to explore beyond the Georgetown community.

“On my walk to class from the apartment building, I would encounter so many different people who had nothing to do with Georgetown at all,” duKor-Jackson wrote to The Hoya. “It was so easy to spontaneously decide to go to an event somewhere in the city or go grocery shopping when I had a free hour or go out to dinner just for fun.”

Bahnan, however, said the CALL’s small student population often made living there socially isolating.

“Other than where your classes are and where you live, there’s not a lot to do in terms of the Georgetown community,” Bahnan said.

Regarding housing, Morgan said the apartments were fairly high-end — including full kitchens, in-unit washers and dryers and a penthouse fitness and community center — compared to housing on the main campus.

“We had our own bedrooms, which was a huge plus,” Morgan wrote. “The communal living spaces were also really luxurious. But there wasn’t much social activity, so they felt pretty empty.”

Transitioning to the Hilltop

After their first semester at the CALL, transfer students essentially transfer again to a new campus for the spring semester — the main campus. This second transition brings its own opportunities and challenges, as CALL transfers strive to connect with the Hilltop community.

Morgan said the university mostly facilitated a smooth transition for CALL transfer students to the Hilltop, including arranging for a local company to move students’ belongings across the District.

“The CALL directors kept in contact with us throughout the process and quickly responded to all of our questions,” Morgan wrote. “Georgetown also organized for Storage Scholars to handle our belongings, and I’m grateful for that.”

However, Morgan said Georgetown could have improved communication with CALL transfers regarding housing details.

“At the same time, the university, as a whole, could have done a better job; many of us didn’t know where we were living until five days before moving in,” Morgan wrote.

Howey said she still felt a little behind, academically and socially, upon arrival to the main campus.

“After feeling so isolated as a CALL transfer, I was counting down the days to the main campus,” Howey wrote to The Hoya. “But I felt as if everyone already had a friend group, their clubs set in stone, and the campus figured out. I honestly didn’t even know where most of my classes were.”

Morgan said the main campus has provided a significant departure from the social isolation of the CALL.

“I’ve made many more friends since moving here, and it feels like I’m having a more typical college experience again,” Morgan wrote. “The campus community is great; everyone has been so friendly thus far. It didn’t take long for me to feel at home.”

Other students have brought friendships from the CALL with them to the Hilltop. Bahnan said the program fostered connections among herself and her fellow transfer students.

“Because it was so small, me and my transfer friends were able to build a strong connection since there weren’t that many of us,” Bahnan said. “So moving to the main campus, we’re still a group of friends, which I really like.”

duKor-Jackson said transitioning to a new campus community twice in the same academic year makes it difficult to establish a sense of belonging.

“As transfer students, we have already made the initial transition from our previous schools to Georgetown, and then, just a few months later, we are expected to transition again from the Capitol Campus to the Hilltop. Jumping from place to place isn’t exactly conducive to building community,” duKor-Jackson added.

Transfer Criticisms of the CALL

Several CALL transfers criticize the program’s limited course offerings, which impeded their efforts to fulfill core requirements.

For the Fall 2023 semester, for example, the CALL only offered seats in one course meeting the university’s Science for All requirement and one course meeting the Humanities: Art, Literature and Cultures (HALC) requirement. The program also offered one Spanish class, “Intermediate Spanish II,” that would count toward the language requirements for the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) or the Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS).

Georgetown only offered other courses that fulfill core requirements, such as theology and religious studies or philosophy, on the main campus.

duKor-Jackson said she was frustrated that she was unable to complete core requirements at the CALL.

“Though I was excited about the classes I was taking, it was frustrating that I wasn’t really making progress towards graduation during my time at the CALL,” duKor-Jackson wrote. “As a junior transfer, in particular, I’m now in a position where I don’t have room for any more electives for the remainder of my undergraduate career, and I’ll be taking first-year and introductory classes like Problem of God as a senior.”

During their CALL semester, students are also not allowed to enroll in courses at the main campus, except for second-semester seniors who are taking a thesis or capstone course. However, students on the Hilltop can take CALL courses without being enrolled in the program.

Howey said being able to take courses at the main campus would have eased her transition from the CALL to the Hilltop this semester.

“I definitely feel the university could have supported us a little more, especially when it came time to schedule our classes,” Howey wrote. “I think that if they allowed us to take a class or two at the main campus, it wouldn’t have made me feel as behind in my core requirements, and I also would have been able to integrate into campus sooner.”

Erin Force | One month into their first semester on Georgetown’s main campus, this fall’s cohort of CALL transfer students is reflecting on their time downtown and transition to the Hilltop.

The university does require transfer students at the CALL to enroll in “Designing Your Georgetown,” a one-credit course that guides them in planning their Georgetown experience.

Erin Force, an associate dean at Georgetown who taught “Designing Your Georgetown” in the Fall 2022 and Fall 2023 semesters, said the course urges students to consider their undergraduate goals after their semester at the CALL and postgraduate plans.

“As we do this planning, we’re also discussing the bigger picture: the value of a residential undergraduate education and how that aligns with our work and life goals; what brings us energy and engagement versus what drains us; what previous activities and accomplishments make sense to build upon at Georgetown; and what three versions of our five-year plan could entail,” Force wrote to The Hoya.

Tad Howard, the former CAS transfer advising dean and current associate dean for strategic innovation at the CALL, said this course provides him informal opportunities to support CALL transfers, in addition to his office hours.

“I’m available to all students, but have made special outreach to transfer students a priority,” Howard wrote to The Hoya. “For reasons of continuity and orientation, all students have a Hilltop CAS advising dean assigned to them, so I’m providing another layer of support and presence. I’d like to think that this less formal advising relationship opens things up a bit.”

duKor-Jackson said the CALL program also provided insufficient transportation to the main campus.

Although Georgetown’s main campus is accessible via the public Circulator bus, CALL students’ primary mode of transportation is the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle (GUTS), a free shuttle bus for Georgetown faculty, staff, students and members of the public. The Capitol Campus GUTS route runs on weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 10:15 p.m., stopping at several locations in D.C., including at 55 H St. NW, where CALL students live. On Saturdays, students can also take the 55 H St. Saturday Shuttle to the main campus.

With the Saturday Shuttle only operating until 10:20 p.m. on Saturday nights and no GUTS bus running on Sundays, duKor-Jackson said the available modes of transportation to the main campus often felt unsafe.

“So many events are held late on weekends or on Sundays, and the GUTS bus doesn’t run at those times,” duKor-Jackson wrote. “Late at night, it often doesn’t feel safe to use a rideshare app or take the Circulator, then walk to campus from M Street — especially alone and especially as a young woman.”

Howey said she appreciates the opportunity to attend the CALL, but feels she would have enjoyed the program more as a returning junior or senior, rather than as a transfer student new to Georgetown.

“I will forever be grateful to attend this university, and I believe the CALL brought me people that I will have for the rest of my life,” Howey wrote. “I just do not think it was the right place for me as a transfer student my first semester here.”

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