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2020 Human Rights First Fellow

Rachel Milner
BA Public Policy ‘22
Human Rights First

“The Human Rights First Fellowship provided the perfect opportunity to combine my interests in foreign policy and human rights, and determine if this is the right field for me. I would like to thank the Program in International and Comparative Studies, Donia Human Rights Center, and Human Rights First for this amazing opportunity to solidify my interest in pursuing a human rights career.

Interning for both the foreign policy and advocacy branches at Human Rights First this summer provided me with the perfect opportunity to combine my interests in foreign policy and human rights, and determine if this is the right field for me. Many times, the work between two branches overlapped. One of the major projects Melissa Hooper had been working on was trying to pass the Protecting Human Rights During the Pandemic Act. From this effort, I was able to see many facets of NGO work that is often behind the scenes. This included coordinating efforts with other NGOs, talking to congressional offices and their aides about the language and strategy of the act, and setting up an event with human rights defenders from across the world to encourage representatives to support the legislation. Furthermore, I researched the interests of different representatives on both sides of the aisle in order to determine the best talking points that might encourage them to support the legislation. Participating in this process gave me insight into balancing the interests of both parties to garner bipartisan support.

For the advocacy team, I was able to monitor different hearings and summarize key points. This was a good opportunity to study congress in session and view the proceedings from a human interest lens. I was assigned a variety of different tasks during the experience—such as researching UN nominees or tracking Russian-owned media in Poland—which allowed me to improve my research techniques and my ability to produce information in different formats. Each day I was able to learn more about foreign policy and national security, discovering how human rights impacted these efforts. Sitting in on meetings with multiple NGOs, congressional staffers, and human rights defenders from abroad, as well as speaking with Human Rights First co-workers, also played a pivotal role in shaping my experience and allowed me to see different career options moving forward.

Some of my common takeaways to prepare myself for the field included working on developing language skills, immersing myself in other cultures abroad, and making sure to work on topics that I am passionate about. I am now certain that I want to attend law school and apply to the Peace Corps following graduation.

At Human Rights First, I was able to immerse myself in the human rights world through one of the most prominent organizations in the field. I was able to get feedback on research and listen to experts on a wide range of topics. I am walking away from this internship more prepared academically and professionally to build a career in human rights.”