In summer 2021, the Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC) supported six fellowships for University of Michigan students who participated in 6-12 week internships with diverse organizations focusing on a range of human rights issues. The students reflected on how these various internships provided them with invaluable work experiences. Many noted how the opportunities helped advance their personal growth and professional development to progress towards a human rights career path. Read more about the life-changing experiences of these DHRC fellows below.
2021 DHRC Belgrade Centre for Human Rights Fellowship
Awarded to U-M LSA undergraduate students to intern with the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights in Belgrade, Serbia.
A.B. International Studies (International Security, Norms and Cooperation); A.B. French & Francophone Studies ‘21
“This summer, I had a six week virtual fellowship with the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), based in Belgrade, Serbia. Throughout my fellowship, I met virtually with Anja Stefanović, the Asylum and Migration Programme Coordinator, who was my mentor during my experience. Each week I would send her English proofreading edits of their website azil.rs/en, reviewing the articles, announcements, and documents published on their website. This helped me review what the BCHR has accomplished in the past, as well as understand how they raise awareness about the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in previous projects.
Another one of my responsibilities during my fellowship was to write an article that would be published on their website in Serbian and English. For this article, I wrote about the importance of data privacy and protection for refugees and asylum seekers. Finally, I wrote a research paper for the BCHR on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international migration policy, and how it is affecting Serbia and the surrounding EU countries specifically. I analyzed quantitative and qualitative data that measured the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international migration policy, and illustrated the implications of these results on the Republic of Serbia. This research paper was reviewed by Ms. Stefanović, as well as Sonja Tošković, the Centre’s executive director, and will be published soon on their website.
I am incredibly thankful for this fantastic opportunity and experience with the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights. I was able to listen and learn from worldwide advocates in the field firsthand at roundtable talks, as well as conduct research on relevant and contemporary issues within the refugee and migration field. Furthermore, I sincerely thank the Donia Human Rights Center for its support and for providing me with this opportunity. While I could not be in-person in Serbia to participate in this fellowship, this has been a truly enriching experience that I will cherish as I go forward into my human rights career. And, I know that I will visit Serbia in the future to meet my Serbian mentors from the BCHR in-person.”
Awarded to U-M LSA undergraduate students, recent graduates, or graduate students to intern with the Social Change Initiative in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
A.B. International Studies (International Security, Norms and Cooperation) ‘20
“My experience with the Social Change Initiative (SCI) has been invaluable for my educational and professional goals. Upon reflection, I realize that it was the first time I engaged with law in a substantive manner. As an undergraduate, I took numerous courses that discussed the limitations and implications of human rights law in the wider international sphere, but never examined legal text itself. With SCI, my first assignment involved reading and analyzing legislation. I became quite adept at scanning documents and identifying the sections relevant to my task at hand.
As a fellow, my primary role involved the creation of a product guide that explained the monitoring and compliance mechanisms adopted under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol, and EU-UK Trade and Co-Operation Agreement in accessible terms. This was no walk in the park, so to speak – beyond the difficulty of understanding legal jargon, the arrangements themselves (and Northern Ireland’s special status between the regulatory spheres of the European Union and United Kingdom) are quite complex. I also navigated the space between human rights law and its accessibility for relevant populations. A huge portion of the final product, in fact, is a series of flowcharts that outline the legal processes associated with the above three agreements. This intersects with my long-term professional ambition to innovate mechanisms that make international human rights law a more effective tool for those it intends to protect. In hoping to effectuate on-the-ground reform, I now believe there is much to be gained by analyzing human rights in approachable frameworks.
A major facet of my work involved interviewing officials of Northern Ireland’s human rights bodies and organizations about problems they have encountered with the implementation of the Protocol and TCA. In particular, I spoke with Roisin Mallon of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland; Eilis Haughey of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission; Daniel Holder of the Committee on the Administration of Justice; Anthony Soares of the Centre for Cross Border Studies; and John-Patrick Clayton of UNISON. I coordinated and conferred with these individuals one-on-one, which enabled me to develop better communication and interpersonal skills in the process.
In short, my summer with SCI represented the first instance in which I was an actor in the international sphere. Instead of just learning about human rights in the classroom or engaging with international issues at an American-based NGO, I was actually involved and being consulted about what should happen next. I, too, got a taste for the international sphere’s complex nature. This knowledge will be incredibly useful as I pave my professional path forward, and I extend my utmost appreciation to the Donia Human Rights Center and the Social Change Initiative for granting this experience.”
Awarded to U-M LSA undergraduate students with a demonstrated interest in pursuing a career in human rights to work with an international human rights institution or organization identified by the student.
A.B. Political Science; A.B. Social Theory and Practice ‘22
Internship with Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)
“I’d like to thank and express my sincere gratitude to the Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC). Due to their Student-Initiated Summer Internship Fellowship award, I was able to work remotely for Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) Interntional for 12 weeks this summer. This DHRC award allowed me to focus all my energy and time into this amazing internship, and because of that I was able to accomplish a great deal over the term and learn in depth about torture abolition advocacy, international human rights law, and qualitative research methods.
First, I contributed to the creation of a Time Stream in coordination with Genocide Watch. This time stream pulled from data in TASSC’s report “Torture in Uganda: The Tragic History, Impact and Current Reality under the Museveni Regime,” that I co-authored during the winter semester. This timestream incorporated specific incidents and human rights abuses from 2015 until now and will be used to determine if there are any sign of “torture predictors” when the timeline is compared to other events (e.g political events, government actions, policy change). Second, myself and another intern created a 3-module trauma-informed interview training for future interns at Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition. These modules were customized around TASSC’s survivor-centered framework. I also included multiple audio recordings and reports of my previous interviews with torture survivors, so future interns can become familiar with the interview framework, listen to appropriate responses, and become exposed and process rights violations.
However, the majority of my work focused on a confidential Global Magnitsky case. I led the investigations and creation of this case and collaborated with a law firm on creating sound legal arguments. My team conducted 15 interviews regarding the gross human rights violation and also supported two reporters that conducted interviews on the ground, which were included in our submission. Once finalized, this case will be submitted to the U.S State Department and U.S. Treasury Department.
Following the work that I did this summer, I plan on incorporating the research that I conducted at TASSC into my political science honors thesis. After working on Uganda and TASSC’s report on the use of torture there, I plan on exploring how Ugandan governmental policy and actions that leveraged the COVID-19 pandemic affected the use of torture against the political opposition.
Additionally, the contrast between the male and female torture experience became apparent in the interviews, even though the narrative around “the torture experience” of the political opposition in Uganda often excluded or failed to mention the stories of these women. In the future, I plan on continuing similar research in graduate school with the intention of pursuing a PhD in political science. My aim of a graduate school research project would be to explore the gendered nature of torture in Zimbabwe, specifically uses of sexual torture against women and how that compares to the type of torture inflicted upon their male counterparts. This case study would also explore the adverse impacts of sexual torture and discuss how reconcilliation and healing methods can become more effective when considering the individual survivor’s gender and unique torture experience. I plan on collecting the majority of my data through interviews with survivors, as I did with TASSC.
Overall, this internship was incredibly profound and formative. Not only did it change my honors thesis proposal, it also directed and informed the path I will take following graduation. Thank you DHRC for making this possible and for contributing to a summer full of research, reflection, and exposure to possible research questions and case studies.”
2021 DHRC/PACLSHR/Fair Labor Association Fellowship
Awarded to U-M undergraduate or graduate students to intern with the Fair Labor Association in Washington, D.C.
Sustainable Food Procurement FLA Internship
A.B. Public Policy; minor, German ‘22
“The DHRC/PACLSHR/FLA sustainable food procurement internship was an incredibly rewarding experience, through which I strengthened my knowledge of sustainability issues and food policy and enhanced my research skills. I am deeply grateful for the funding and support provided by the Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC), the University of Michigan President's Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights (PACLSHR), and the Fair Labor Association (FLA). I am also thankful for the guidance provided by my supervisors Ravi Anupindi (Colonel William G. and Ann C. Svetlich Professor of Operations Research and Management at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and Chair of the PACLSHR), Steve Mangan (Senior Director of Michigan Dining), and Michiko Shima (Technical Director for Supply Chain Innovation and Agriculture at the Fair Labor Association).”
I began my internship by researching environmental and social sustainability issues within the food industry and familiarizing myself with various organizations making strides towards more sustainable and equitable food systems. This preliminary research laid the groundwork for the development of a survey on sustainable food procurement. With the support of my supervisors, I formulated and refined a list of survey questions, which were sent to roughly 300 contacts at over 180 different academic institutions. I then analyzed the responses and wrote a report detailing the findings of the survey. This project allowed me to apply the data analysis skills I learned through my coursework and helped me to strengthen my data collection, analysis, visualization, and reporting skills.
I also assisted with projects for Michigan Dining. I appreciated having the opportunity to work in-person in Michigan Dining’s Office space and benefited from the support of Michigan Dining’s Director of Sustainability, Student, and Community Engagement Keith Soster. My work, which included reviewing a sustainability benchmarking tool, helping to revise RFP language, and generating research project ideas, provided me with an inside perspective of the process and barriers to advancing sustainability issues in school dining service programs.
The DHRC/PACLSHR/FLA internship ultimately solidified my interest in sustainability and food policy. Connecting with students, faculty, and staff within the U-M community, who are dedicated to addressing food and sustainability issues has inspired me to continue to pursue projects related to food and sustainability.”
Awarded to U-M undergraduate or graduate students to intern with the Fair Labor Association in Washington, D.C.
Fair Compensation Program FLA Internship
Master of Social Work ‘22
“This summer, I completed a virtual internship with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) in Washington, D.C. with support from the Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC) and the U-M President’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights (PACLSHR). This internship was a rewarding experience that complimented my learning in the Master’s of Social Work program, allowed me to explore the field of corporate social responsibility and fair labor, and expanded my research and evaluation skills. Even in the virtual setting, I was given a warm welcome by the FLA and felt like a valued team member. I worked with the Fair Compensation team on a variety of projects related to measuring living wages in apparel factories.
One of my main goals for this internship was to learn more about how organizations use data to support social justice efforts. At the FLA, I practiced working with data from all angles: collection, analysis, and reporting findings tailored to various audiences. For instance, I participated in a brainstorming session on how the FLA can collect data on equal pay for equal work at the factory level. This process showed me that creating a tool that can collect the right data, yet also be straightforward to use, is an intricate process that requires trial and error. Also, I learned about presenting analysis findings in purposeful ways for various audiences. Lastly, I gained a new perspective on social activism. The FLA was created largely as a response to fair labor activism. Continued outcry from the public for sustainability and fair labor pressures companies to push this work forward. Working with the FLA has made me feel more optimistic about the impact that activism can have.
I am very thankful for the Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC) and the U-M President’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights (PACLSHR) for funding this 10-week internship. I’m also grateful for the FLA for their guidance, and for funding an additional 4 weeks so that I could continue working with them in August. I’m glad to have contributed to the FLA and I will take what I learned during this experience with me on the next steps in my MSW program and career development.”
Awarded to LSA undergraduate students to intern with Perseus Strategies, LLC in Washington, D.C., and its managing director, the renowned international human rights lawyer, Jared Genser (U-M Law '01).
A.B. Sociology; minor, International Studies ‘22
“I was overjoyed to receive the opportunity for the International Human Rights Fellowship at Perseus Strategies. From the first day, I was entrusted with responsibility and began to problem solve and complete numerous tasks to help the firm’s many cases. Within eight weeks, I can say that the depth of human rights knowledge and hands-on experience has been unmatched by any course I’ve taken. I have never been so up to date on the happenings around the world, in the U.S. Congress and international bodies like the United Nations. Going into my final year as an undergraduate student, I can guarantee that this experience has bettered me as a student and as I move forward into a career in human rights law.
The highlight of this internship was without a doubt the guest speaker series where intimate zoom chats connected the interns with impressive human rights figures around the world from democracy activists Dr. Yang Janli (I highly recommend his ted talk) and Peter Biar Ajak to neuro-rights activist and scientist Rafael Yuste. During these chats, I was humbled to be hearing the life stories of these incredible people and truly inspired the resilience of the human spirit after stories of arbitrary detention and government repression.
The support from the Perseus team made each day of work delightful. I’d like to thank Jared Genser, Skylar Gleason, Michael Russo, and Brian Tronic for fostering such a great internship program that even though I was states away from the firm, I still felt connected to the team. I must acknowledge this incredible learning experience would not be possible without the Program in International and Comparative Studies, a remarkable program in which I’m also receiving my minor, as well as the Donia Human Rights Center who along with supporting this opportunity, the director Steve Ratner shared invaluable advice as a guest speaker. Finally, I would like to thank Perseus Strategies for challenging me, for believing in my capacity to succeed and for providing me the chance to work with you all.”