Each year the Human Rights Program selects several Trinity students to serve as Human Rights Summer Fellows. These students work for twelve weeks as paid interns at major human rights organizations, often alongside law and graduate students. While most national internships are highly competitive and unpaid, Trinity’s Human Rights Program uses its contacts to place students at leading organizations and provides them with stipends so they can devote themselves full-time to human rights work. A unique opportunity for students to translate what they have learned in their Trinity courses to hands-on professional experiences, the internships often prove transformative. Students return to campus with a more sophisticated understanding of human rights issues and the world of advocacy.
Trinity’s 2010 Human Rights Fellows served as interns at the following organizations: Amnesty International (Washington DC), International Rescue Committee (New York City), Lawyers without Borders (Hartford), Physicians for Human Rights (Boston), Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (New York City), Witness (Brooklyn, NY), Women’s Legal Centre (Cape Town, South Africa). These fellowships are made possible through the generous support of Sarah and Peter Blum ’72, P’11. Peter currently serves as a member of the Trinity College Board of Trustees. The annual fellowship competition is open to all Trinity students, except graduating seniors. Students are selected by a Human Rights faculty committee on the basis of an application, including an essay, transcript, and letter of recommendation. Applications are available in January; for more information, contact Professor Sonia Cardenas, Human Rights program director.
The 2010 Summer Fellows
Antinea Ascione (’12)
Antinea’s fellowship offered her a “real look at a non-profit human rights organization in action.” At Witness—an organization that uses film to raise human rights awareness—Antinea was responsible for submitting films to film festivals; she also wrote a feature blog about the use of fictional versus documentary films in exposing rights issues; and she attended numerous events in New York City, including the Peace and Security Summit and a screening of a Dateline NBC documentary on child labor on farms. Her biggest surprise, she says, is “how much work human rights organizations can get done with such few resources.” Antinea, who is a Political Science and English major with a minor in Human Rights, describes her experience at Witness as “fulfilling, enriching, and memorable.”
Katharine Conway (’11)
As a rising Trinity senior, Kat spent the summer conducting research on sexual and reproductive health rights for Physicians for Human Rights—the world’s leading organization dedicated to mobilizing health professionals on behalf of human rights. Her work was part of a long-term project aimed at developing a policy stance on controversial issues relating to sexual and reproductive rights. “I feel as if I am doing actual hands-on work that is really contributing to the organization…and I have become somewhat of an expert on the topic.” Kat is a Human Rights major and Marine Studies minor at Trinity, who has also studied human rights in Copenhagen and Cape Town and worked as an intern at the Boston Consortium on Gender, Security, and Human Rights.
Kelly Coyne (’12)
Kelly, a Human Rights major at Trinity with minors in African Studies and Legal Studies, was assigned to Amnesty International’s Counter Terror with Justice Campaign, an experience she describes as “inspirational and motivating.” Focusing on issues of torture and U.S. policy, Kelly was able to sit in on strategy meetings, conduct an array of research, and attend numerous events hosted by other organizations throughout Washington. One of the highlights of the summer was planning an event that brought survivors of torture to speak to Amnesty International staff; she continues to work with a team at Amnesty to help secure asylum for two of the survivors. Going from having worked the previous semester at a startup NGO in Cape Town to interning at Amnesty International, one of the world’s most prominent human rights organizations, has given her a unique look at how diverse human rights organizations operate and how she might fit into different work environments. For her senior project, Kelly is currently teaching a course on women’s rights at the York Correctional Institute.
Sandra Gonzalez (’11)
As a student majoring in Hispanic Studies and International Relations, and an active member of Stop the Raids!, a student organization dedicated to the rights of immigrants, Sandra is used to working across cultural lines. This summer she continued to do so in new ways at the International Rescue Committee in New York City. In a very hands-on internship, Sandra worked closely with families from the Middle East and Africa, helping them to resettle in the United States. From picking up families at the airport to taking them to government offices and easing their transition into a new home, Sandra describes the work as immensely rewarding. “Families are so grateful of the work organizations like the IRC do to change their lives. I felt I played an important role in the process of restructuring their lives.” Sandra says she also learned a great deal about the non-profit world and the political conditions pushing people around the world to leave their home countries.
Hannah Kaneck (’12)
Hannah, a Human Rights major and pre-med student at Trinity, worked at Amnesty International in Washington, D.C.. Her main task was to assist in recruiting and processing experts known as “country and thematic specialists.” Working closely with the program’s director, Hannah was able to learn a great deal about human rights conditions in many countries around the world. “Meeting the Country Specialists has allowed me to network and make connections I know would be nonexistent if it were not for this internship.” Overall, the fellowship proved to be an invaluable learning experience for the Trinity junior: “The protests and opportunities to work outside the office, including going to Capitol Hill to meet with staffers, attending vigils for prisoners of conscience, and just watching individuals affect change right before my eyes, have just been spectacular."
Nicolette Laume (’11)
The Human Rights and Women, Gender, and Sexuality major (and photography minor) had the opportunity to work at the Women’s Legal Centre in Cape Town this summer. It was an intensive summer for Nicolette who attended workshops and conducted research into several cutting-edge issues, including domestic partnerships, victim empowerment legislation, and battered woman syndrome in South African court cases. “I feel that my input seriously made a difference. I am very proud of and grateful for that.” Nicolette also joined a team of interns to research the rights of domestic workers, which tied in closely to an earlier internship in Trinidad with a domestic workers’ union. The WLC, started by a group of women lawyers in South Africa, conducts constitutional litigation and advocacy on gender to advance women’s rights.
Michael Magdelinskas-Vazquez (’11)
As someone planning to attend law school, Michael’s internship at Lawyers without Borders was a logical match. His summer included spearheading a book design competition, conducting research on issues like the Millennium Development Goals and women’s inheritance laws, and leading a new grant-writing project. He was able to use his knowledge of French and Spanish on site, as well as parley his past as a professional actor to dub several “train-the-trainers” videos. As a major in English and Urban and Global Studies, Michael says his time at LWOB was “eye-opening” and it has helped him improve his research skills. Headquartered in Hartford, LWOB was founded in 2000 as a global network of lawyers dedicated to human rights justice through the provision of pro bono services.
Molly McDonnell (’11)
Working in a small influential NGO like Watchlist was a unique learning experience for Molly, an International Studies major at Trinity. Molly helped launch a new report on Afghanistan, requiring her to contact UN missions and attend the UN Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, all the time researching rights conditions in numerous conflict zones. Molly describes it as an “exciting time” to be at the organization, which impressed her most with its ability to influence decisions at the United Nations. The fellowship built productively on her experience the previous summer, volunteering at a school and orphanage in China. Watchlist monitors and reports on rights violations against children, especially in situations of armed conflict.