Experience Internships: Social Justice at Iowa

How can your Honors experiences impact your worldview and personality? How far do you have to go to have such an experience? In this blog, Stephanie Domingo takes us through an internship that altered her perspective and gave direction on a new career possibility. And guess what–it happened right here on campus.

Hello! My name is Stephanie Domingo and I am currently an undergraduate student majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies (GWSS) and English. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at The University of Iowa, and will miss it very much when I graduate in December 2016. Both of the academic and extra-curricular experiences that I have had have impacted me tremendously, and I am forever grateful.

One of these experiences was an internship with the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR). The UICHR is located in the University Capitol Centre (UCC) of the Old Capitol Mall in Iowa City. I started my internship in August of 2015, but am specifically receiving honors credit for it this past fall semester 2016. Each of the three semesters, including this past semester as an intern have included fifteen weeks of work. There were six other UICHR interns with whom I worked alongside this semester, and three half-time staff members. Each week, the interns would do about 10 hours of work that included office hours in the UICHR office, creating digital posters for UICHR events, marketing and advertising events, planning and organizing events, and assisting in the set-up and facilitation of events. The events included panel discussions, lectures, film screenings, tabling, and more, on a variety of human rights-related topics. Some of these topics concerned the plights of Muslim Americans, the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories, U.S. criminal justice system reform, refugees and asylum-seekers, international relations, international law, the United Nations (UN), race, gender, and women in politics.

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(My desk at the UICHR office.)

As interns, we were also encouraged to pursue our own ideas and create our own events. One of the events that I planned, organized, and facilitated was in cooperation with the student organization that I was a member of, UI Amnesty International, which is an affiliate of one of the largest human rights organizations, Amnesty International. The event featured Edith Garwood, the Amnesty International USA Specialist on Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the State of Palestine, who spoke to UI students on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today, and specifically on the horrific ways that children are involved.

Edith’s lecture included a presentation on a brief history of the conflict, the effects on both sides of the conflict, and how children are being targeted. In addition, a Q & A discussion took place and free DVD documentaries following the journey of two investigative reporters’ travels to the Gaza Strip during conflict were handed out to attendees. Overall, it was a fun event to organize and participate in. Putting on the event gave me more confidence and demonstrated to me that I had the ability to organize my own events, to raise awareness of ongoing human rights violations, and to network with current human rights activists such as Edith. We all learned a lot, and I made a connection with Edith, which I pursued at the Amnesty International Regional Midwest Conference a few days later when I spoke with her there. Meeting and learning from Edith also gave me insight into what types of human rights careers there were to pursue. This was personally very helpful as I am considering a career in human rights and social justice, and did not know much about the different kinds of positions available in the areas.

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Moreover, one of the most memorable events that I helped with and attended was the annual “One Community, One Book” Lecture of 2015 featuring famous lawyer, author, and activist Bryan Stevenson, an event that was co-sponsored and spearheaded by the UICHR. I helped by advertising the event, putting up posters, and placing information on each of the seats in the IMU Main Lounge where the event was held. The event consisted of Bryan Stevenson giving a lecture about his experiences as a lawyer working for the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. He told various stories of his experiences fighting against harsh and cruel criminal punishments, such as the death penalty and trying children as adults in court. His stories were so inspiring, but also heartbreaking. Hearing things like the fact that some of his clients were innocent made me feel sick, but also motivated to act. One thing that stuck with me was Bryan Stevenson’s quote: “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” This stuck with me because I wholeheartedly agreed with the quote and found it inspiring to hear it come from such a successful lawyer and activist. It also stuck with me because I could feel the passion in Bryan Stevenson’s voice when he spoke it; I knew that this belief of his grounded the very work that he did. Had I not been an intern at the UICHR, I probably would not have heard of nor gone to this event, and I am very grateful that I did. My internship has allowed me to take advantage of many similar opportunities on campus and in the community that have helped me to learn and grow as a person.

injustice

(The poster for the event.)

Overall, interning with the UICHR has helped me both personally and professionally. My internship has helped me to network with various human rights scholars, activists, and organizations, which has given me a broader perspective on the work that is being done in the field. As I’ve touched on above, my internship has given me a multitude of opportunities to learn and gain critical thinking skills through attending and helping out at different events. This past semester, I had the opportunity to collaborate with the organization IC Compassion on a refugee story project in addition to having the opportunity to serve on the UICHR advisory board as the undergraduate representative.

At my last advisory board meeting in November I was invited to continue on the board as a community member working with the RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps program in Cedar Rapids, which I was happy to accept because it is a small way that I can continue to work with the UICHR and spread awareness of current human rights issues. Overall, my internship experience has been a memorable one and one that has helped me to learn, grow, and gain professional experience in the human rights field. I hope that you have found reading about my experience useful, and thank you for doing so!

stephanie

By: Stephanie Domingo

Major: Philosophy

Minors: Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies and English

Hometown: Arlington Heights, IL

 

Edited By: Katie Kiesewetter, Blog Manager

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