Summer Internship Series: A Summer of Justice

Imaa Nicco-Annan ’18

Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, Washington, D.C.

My name is Imaa Nicco-Annan and I am a senior at Denison University majoring in International Studies with a concentration on human rights and women empowerment, and a minor in French. This summer I had the privilege of working in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Washington, DC.

Human Rights Watch is a renowned, American-founded international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. The organization is known for its neutral reporting, accurate fact-finding, effective use of media, and targeted advocacy. This is often in collaboration with local human rights groups. Human Rights Watch also publishes more than 100 reports and briefings on human rights conditions in some 90 countries, generating extensive coverage in local and international media, some of which we, as interns, had the privilege of drafting.

My responsibilities as the Africa Division Intern were to draft reports and documents regarding issues in Africa while interacting with other US and international organizations, and foreign and domestic government officials.  A typical day of work involved monitoring the media for human rights issues occurring in select countries in West Africa; namely Senegal, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Gambia. My colleagues and I were assigned typical intern tasks such as filing and scanning documents, attending external meetings, flagging and sending emails regarding important press releases. However, we were also given a lot of leeway to work on tasks that were more geared towards our personal interests.

Human Rights Watch organized weekly “Speaker Series” where professionals within the organization would speak on varying issues which helped broaden my knowledge about the gravity of some human rights issues that I initially was not aware of. Through this internship, I gained direct exposure to the working on an international human rights organization. I also had the opportunity to network with several professionals in the legal and non-profit fields at leadership conferences hosted by Google, the French Embassy and Human Rights Watch. I was given the opportunity to draft a report on Guinea’s bauxite mining industry that is due for publication sometime this year. I was also assigned a task to identify locations and numbers of Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in Mali following clashes in 2012.

Through this internship, I greatly improved upon my research, analytical and critical thinking skills. This summer at Human Rights Watch served as a great avenue to learn about the employed strategies and efforts that are placed in investigations on issues of human rights abuses; and in the exposure of facts that generate extensive media coverage and eventually, changes in policy. It also gave me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in human rights advocacy field which I plan to pursue as a career, and honed my existent skills while simultaneously acquiring new ones. In addition, this internship helped me build my confidence as I attended various conferences and forums and networked with numerous professionals in the legal field.

My summer at Human Rights Watch has helped me guide my professional path and goals. I am certain that I want to work in an organization that focuses more on legislation of policies to protect human rights and eventually go to law school with the hopes of becoming a defense attorney.

I would like to thank Jim Wormington, Corinne Dufka, Lauren Seibert, and my coworkers-MJ, Charline and Gen for an enriching summer experience in DC.

Summer Internship Series: Doing Policy in DC

Leah Hansler ‘18

Policy Intern, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Arlington, VA

Summer internship series: doing policy in dc - lh-nb-office.png image #0My name is Leah Hansler and I’m a senior political science major and philosophy minor. This summer I was a policy intern at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards near Washington, DC.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) seeks to elevate the teaching profession and improve the quality of teaching and learning in the US. It maintains rigorous teacher-set standards of what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do and provides a voluntary certification process for teachers who meet these standards. NBPTS works with other education-related organizations and advocates for policies related to teacher professional development, teacher leadership, and embedding national standards in school systems and teacher preparation programs.

While I have sought out experiences related to policy and advocacy throughout my college career, I did not have experience with education policy prior to this internship and I was excited to learn and work in a new field. My supervisor, Sarah Pinsky, gave me meaningful and interesting projects and had me sitting in on meetings and conference calls on my very first day. I also had the opportunity to help with other projects and departments, like editing part of a grant proposal and participating in Strategy and Policy team meetings.  I had two main projects, which were both meaningful learning experiences that added value to the organization. Drawing on my experience in advocacy, one of my projects was to design a series of resources to help the networks of National Board Certified teachers (NBCTs) around the country with their political advocacy efforts. I finished six handouts during my internship, addressing topics like “What is Advocacy and Why is it Important for NBCTs”, “Building Relationships with Policymakers”, and “Legislative Processes”. Before I left, I wrote a document with suggestions for how to use the resources going forward. The handouts are available to all NBCTs and will be used to inform the organization’s broader advocacy goals for the year.

Drawing on my experience with research, my other main project was to go through all research that references NBPTS, create a database of the research with detailed analysis, and then to create a summary document of general themes and overarching findings from what I had read so far. While I was not able or expected to finish going through all the research during my summer there, the summary document and database I started will be available internally to all NBPTS staff to aid in grant proposals, resources, and projects.

Summer internship series: doing policy in dc - lh-capitol-building.jpg image #1

I learned so much from my experience with National Board. I refined my advocacy and research skills, learned about important education policies, and received a more intimate understanding of how education is governed in the US as well as how US government works in general. I also gained a better understanding of how nonprofit organizations function and how to collaborate effectively within them. Additionally, both because of my internship and because I was living in DC, I had the opportunity to attend several events, briefings, and advocacy activities related to topics that interest me. I went to the constituent coffee for Senator Sherrod Brown, the full House markup of an appropriations bill, and several panels hosted by the Center for American Progress and the World Affairs Council DC, to name just a few. I improved my networking skills and learned about what it’s like to be part of the policy community in DC.

Because of my internship and my time in DC, I know that I want to pursue a career in policy, advocacy, and projects for a nonprofit organization. I also came away from the experience wanting to learn more about education and curious about how the practice of teaching could fit into my other interests and goals. My internship helped me decide to take an Education class at Denison this semester and to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Fellowship.

I could not have had this wonderful experience without Dr. Pool and Dr. Katz in the Political Science department, the Knowlton Center, and the Cephus L. Stephens Public Affairs Internship Stipend. I also must thank my amazing supervisor, Sarah Pinsky, as well as all the other colleagues at National Board I had the pleasure to know and work with this summer. I am grateful to them for affording me an internship opportunity that was everything I could have wanted and more.