BA International Studies (International Security, Norms, and Cooperation) ‘23
“My experience with Perseus Strategies, made possible by the funding provided by PICS and the Donia Human Rights Center, has definitively shaped my educational and career goals as I enter my senior year of undergraduate studies. These experiences impacted my decision to apply to graduate school, though not in the way I imagined. The funding for this fellowship empowered me to spend two months relocated to Washington D.C. Although the work remained virtual, being physically in D.C. during my internship allowed me to preview the experience of living and working in that area. Based on this preview of living and working in D.C. my view changed on what I want to pursue for post-graduate studies.
Going into the summer fellowship, I believed I wanted to take a year or two off after my undergraduate graduation before applying to law school. This fellowship showed me the reality of working at a small human rights firm like Perseus, where the work consisted of eight hours of virtual research and meetings a day. My position essentially required me to conduct legal research. I found the research interesting and knew it had direct application to the clients we served, but by the end of the summer I knew that working in a research position was not conducive to the career I wanted. Learning what you do not want to do is as valuable as learning what you do want to do, and this fellowship helped me determine that I want to work in an interpersonal setting with the populations I want to serve and I do not want to work in a setting that would require me to work independently most of the time.
As a result of these conclusions, I began looking at jobs and graduate programs that would provide the interpersonal job I am seeking. I do believe law school could prepare me to work interpersonally with clients, but due to the high financial burden of law school I intend to pursue other paths until I am confident in investing in law school. Searching through various graduate programs and career paths finally brought me to social work. I felt, after reviewing various social work programs, that a masters of social work had a wide-spread applicability that enabled me to serve populations directly without committing to the financial burden of law school.
Being supported financially to move out to D.C. and participate in this fellowship without financial worry helped me reach a clear decision about pursuing my masters of social work in the fall of 2023. This decision gives me the direction necessary to submit applications to various social work programs including the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work this semester. I am forever grateful for being given the opportunity to work with Perseus. This experience has gotten me closer to pursuing a career that is fulfilling to me and aligns with my desires to help others in a way that also gives me a sense of community. I feel that my education in International Studies, particularly in international human rights and human security, has prepared me well for the pursuit of social work. I love learning about legal systems and making them more accessible to all people, but as I enter my senior year at Michigan I feel that my education very reasonably translates to social work practice. I feel passionate about incorporating my human rights education into a domestic context through social work. Without the support of PICS and the Donia Human Rights Center, I would not have reached such a definitive conclusion about my post-graduate path.”
Emmanuel Orozco Castellanos
BA International Studies (International Security, Norms, and Cooperation); minor, Translation Studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies ‘22
“I will always remember my experience at Perseus Strategies, which was made possible by the generosity of the Donia Human Rights Center and the Program in International and Comparative Studies, as one of the most rewarding learning periods in my undergraduate career. My time as International Human Rights Fellow at Perseus was exceptional. In the span of ten weeks, I was not only challenged to utilize the theoretical knowledge I have gained from my PICS coursework, but I also learned about human rights practice. The internship, more than any other experience in my undergraduate career, made me feel that the knowledge that I had acquired in PICS was alive, timely, and purposeful. Working at Perseus helped me grasp just how fulfilling working in the human rights arena is, and it did nothing but confirm that this is the type of work I would like to pursue after graduation. If I had to summarize it, I would say that this fellowship supported my educational and professional goals in three ways: first; it provided me with hands-on exposure to the field; second, it helped me develop essential skills and technical expertise, and third; it gave me valuable insight into future professional opportunities. All in all, interning at Perseus helped me become a more well-rounded professional. I am confident that this experience will result extremely valuable as I pursue opportunities after graduation.
This summer, I gained a level of exposure to the field of human rights that I never thought possible this early in my career. As soon as I began my internship, I was impressed by Perseus Strategies’ outstanding partnerships. The organization works closely with high-profile stakeholders, including the White House, U.S. Congress, and the Department of State. Yet, Perseus’ global partners are even more impressive. As the International Human Rights Fellow, I interacted with and learned from foreign governments, global NGOs, Permanent Missions to the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures, Treaty Bodies, and the UN Security Council, in particular, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD). This level of exposure helped me solidify the knowledge I have acquired through PICS, such as human rights diplomacy, government relations, international law, humanitarianism, American foreign policy, the Inter-American system, and the UN system. Therefore, it would be difficult to overstate the level of direct exposure to international affairs that Perseus Strategies offers its interns. This opportunity to engage with the international community is almost unparalleled. As I navigate future professional opportunities, I know that the exposure I have gained interning at Perseus will stand out.
Furthermore, I developed new relevant skills through this internship that will be valuable in my future professional endeavors. The first of these skills is report writing, which must adhere to certain specifications in the field of human rights. For example, this kind of report utilizes specific forms of evidence, and a specific format, tone, and methodology. By reading the submissions of NGOs to the UN Treaty Bodies, as well as Perseus Strategies’ appeals to UN Special Procedures, I expanded my knowledge of how human rights violations are reported and documented. I practiced this newly acquired knowledge when I was tasked with investigating and reporting human rights violations myself by relying on public sources, newspapers, government records, and private correspondence. Being able to reliably cross-check abuse allegations is an essential skill for human rights professionals, and my time at Perseus has equipped me with this kind of expertise. Another relevant skill that I acquired through this fellowship was producing legal citations and utilizing cross-referencing tools. When I started this internship, I did not know how to cite UN treaties and resolutions, let alone knowing how to cross-reference footnotes. However, during my last week, I was able to edit the citations of legal articles and case briefs with over a hundred sources each. Lastly, the high-paced environment of Perseus Strategies challenged me to improve relevant soft and organizational skills such as prioritization, professional communication, attention to detail, etc. Therefore, this internship has equipped me aptitudes, skills, and technical knowledge required to succeed in future endeavors.
Moreover, interning at Perseus Strategies gave me a more nuanced understanding of prospects in the field of human rights. I started my internship at Perseus with a lot of confusion about the difference between a law degree and a master’s degree in human rights. At times, these two seemed undistinguishable to me, which certainly made me hesitant about pursuing post-graduate studies. Luckily, two of my colleagues at Perseus offered me valuable insight into their career paths. One of them obtained a JD and told me about how they leveraged their international affairs education, pursued law school, and got involved in the United Nations Committee Against Torture. By contrast, another one of my colleagues told me about their experience practicing law after graduation, only to apply to a MA program in human rights. Learning from my co-workers’ experiences helped me address some of the blind spots I had regarding these two types of degrees. I now have a more solid foundation of what type of degree I would like to pursue and the kinds of aptitudes and experience that recruiters look for. In addition, I found significant professional support from my colleagues at the organization; they have offered to write stellar letters of recommendation and provide career advice and networking opportunities. As graduation approaches, I am thinking of ways to leverage the partnership I have now established with Perseus Strategies, with the hope to land a job in the field and eventually apply to graduate school.
As shown above, the International Human Rights Fellowship constituted a foundational opportunity in my undergraduate career. This internship enabled me to deepen my knowledge and sharpen the skills I have acquired through my PICS education. This experience was as challenging as it was rewarding, and I have become much more confident in my ability to launch a human rights career. I now have substantiative and direct exposure to the field of international human rights under my belt, and I also possess crucial skills, technical expertise, and a better understanding of the field. Certainly, this outstanding professional experience will open the door to equally worthwhile opportunities. What once seemed an idealistic career path to me now feels tangible and within reach. Working at Perseus Strategies allowed me to contribute to the organization’s exciting mission of supporting human rights defenders and standing up for justice, and I would love to continue this type of work. I cannot think of a more purposeful job, and this was only possible because of the logistical and financial support of PICS and the Donia Human Rights Center. I can guarantee you that the noble work of Perseus Strategies transforms lives and, sometimes, it even saves lives. If I was able to engage in this type of outstanding advocacy, it was in part because of you. Thank you for supporting this dream of mine.”