Published on: June 21st, 2024

50 Years of WHIP

When a young Tucker Watkins ’75 asked then-Illinois congressman Philip Crane which college he should attend, Crane didn’t hesitate to answer. 

“He said the only one to consider going to is Hillsdale College,” Watkins said. 

Watkins took his advice and became one of the first four students to participate in the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, which Crane helped found in 1973. 

“It was the embryonic group,” Watkins said. “There was no pathway to follow.”

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of WHIP, several dozen alumni and current WHIP students filled the Van Andel Graduate School of Government, known as the Kirby Center, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14. One WHIP student from each decade gave a toast to the program. The celebration highlighted how WHIP has changed over the years, and how it has remained the same, according to Watkins.

While studying on WHIP, students spend a semester in Washington D.C., interning during the day and taking classes for credit at night. Today, students take classes at the Kirby Center and live in a nearby townhome. 

“The WHIP program is a profoundly powerful implementation of the Hillsdale motto of pursuing truth and defending liberty,” Watkins said. “Many of the participants of the WHIP program have gone on to accomplish significant pro-liberty achievements. I am very grateful to Hillsdale for creating the WHIP program, and for selecting me to be an early participant in the program.”

Noah Weinrich ’18, who now works at the Heritage Foundation, attended WHIP in 2017 and was present for Trump’s inaugural address. He said the program allowed him to experience things that he would be unable to do in Hillsdale. 

“It was a really cool time to be there because that was during the Trump inauguration. I got the day off work and I got to sit next to the mayor of Fort Worth,” Weinrich said. “In class the next day, we went through his speech and talked about the political implications. ”

Weinrich said working in politics also enriched his classes. 

“I liked the classes a lot — it’s amazing to be reading and thinking about politics in the heart of Washington and talking to some people who have different experiences who you wouldn’t normally go to classes with in D.C.,” Weinrich said. “I do look at the current WHIP classes, and I’m a little jealous of some of the professors — David Azerrad, Mollie Hemingway, and Michael Anton — that’s pretty cool.”

Senior and current WHIP student Jenna Hageman said she appreciates the integration into D.C. amidst the close community of Hillsdale students.

“One of my favorite parts of WHIP is that the program has brought together 17 kids who wouldn’t necessarily run in the same circles on main campus,” Hageman said. 

Today, a greater number of students from disciplines outside of politics participate in WHIP. 

“There’s a misconception that only politics majors go on WHIP,” senior and former WHIP student Abigail Snyder said. “That is seriously untrue — anyone from a biology major or chemistry major, to accounting, to English, to politics and economics — anyone can go on WHIP.”

Current WHIP student Luke Spangler said many of the WHIP classes contain political themes.

“I never really enjoyed the 2-and-a-half hour straight class before. For me they are usually too long, heavy, and draining. Here in D.C., however, the atmosphere is light enough that my econ class energizes me,” Spangler said. “All classes, even non-political ones, lean on political themes and are taught by experienced D.C.-ers.”  

Years before Hills

dale bought the Hillsdale House or owned the Kirby Center, students  lived in a small, old townhouse walking distance from the U.S. Capitol. Watkins said he took classes at Georgetown University alongside his WHIP classmates and other Georgetown students. 

“The classes that I took at Georgetown were intense,” Watkins said. “And I’m hearing from the students now who go to that the classes at the Kirby Center are also intense. That’s a good thing. Those experiences were life changing and very rewarding.”

Wakins interned for Crane, conducting political research in the Library of Congress. In his limited free time, Watkins explored DC’s attractions, including the Smithsonian museums. 

Watkins said his interest in politics began in seventh grade, when he read Barry Goldwater’s “The Conscience of a Conservative.” His love for politics persisted throughout high school and college, where he majored in political science, and continues to this day. 

“I started to read books about liberty and freedom and free enterprise and America,” Watkins said. “And so I got very excited about helping continue the tradition of liberty in the United States.” 

Watkins and his wife are still involved in local politics in Texas.

“My wife and I love books, and I read a lot,” he said. “And so in our home, we have a library of over 600 volumes. We continue to be avid readers to this day.” 

Today’s students enjoy many activities coordinated by WHIP — from attending sports games to visiting George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

Vice President of Washington Operations and Dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government Matthew Spalding said he would like to see the amount of students on WHIP increase in the future. The college currently plans to add two new student townhomes to the D.C. campus, according to Spalding.

Spalding said as more students have gone on WHIP over the years, Hillsdale has added more class options. 

“For a college the size of Hillsdale, it’s the best internship program. The courses are serious, and we have great internship placement,” Spalding said. “It will continue to grow.”

-Emma Verringi

About Hillsdale in D.C.

Hillsdale in D.C. is an extension of the teaching mission of Hillsdale College to Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to teach the Constitution and the principles that give it meaning. Through the study of original source documents from American history—and of older books that formed the education of America’s founders—it seeks to inspire students, teachers, citizens, and policymakers to return the America’s principles to their central place in the political life of the nation.

About Hillsdale College

Hillsdale College is an independent liberal arts college located in southern Michigan. Founded in 1844, the College has built a national reputation through its classical liberal arts core curriculum and its principled refusal to accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies, even indirectly in the form of student grants or loans. It also conducts an outreach effort promoting civil and religious liberty, including a free monthly speech digest, Imprimis, with a circulation of more than 5.7 million. For more information, visit