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2021 PICS Summer Fellows

Paulina Buchta
BA International Studies; BA Polish; BA Political Science, minor, Business ‘22
Internship with NBC5 Chicago at NBCUniversal Media, LLC and Deloitte Consulting, LLP in their Government and Public Services Sector

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern for NBC Chicago and Deloitte. I am grateful for this experience that has been so valuable and I can’t wait to integrate the skills I have learned and apply it to my studies at University of Michigan and my Program in International and Comparative Studies (PICS) classes specifically. I want to thank PICS for supporting my experiences as I have met great people and had the opportunity to work in an industry that I have always dreamed of working in.

Working for the media has opened my eyes to how critical the information that is shared to the public is and the importance of accuracy. For my internship, I worked on stories with journalist and reporter, Lisa Parker, and producer Tom Jones. They were amazing to work with and they let me interview viewers that sent in stories, research the information needed, reach out to media contacts at multiple corporations, sit in on their meetings, and even assist in writing bylines. Through PICS I have learned the importance of connections that you make with people and between the countries, just like I made connections with people all over the Chicago Designated Market Area, who were often immigrants or from low income backgrounds. In my PICS classes, a concept that was often stressed was that each international problem needs a unique solution and no issue is similar to another. Being able to help and make a difference by solving viewers’ consumer issues was such a great feeling and experience. 

I also got to take part in an intern competition where my group worked on a summer-long project to try to come up with a way to get more people in the Chicago DMA to download the NBC Chicago, NBC Sports, and Chicago Telemundo apps. Our group came up with the idea to advertise the apps on Apple News. From the networking events I attended with PICS, I have learned the importance of reaching out to professors and employees, which I was able to integrate into this project. With that skill that I learned early on in college, my group and I were able to reach out to Apple employees and those who work in marketing and sales at NBC. Since I am also a Business minor, I have taken Strategy and Marketing which helped me with my pitch. With the knowledge I have acquired at the University of Michigan, I was able to successfully help my group in winning the intern competition where we presented to all the executives at the NBC Chicago office!

My summer internship also inspired me to write an Honors thesis with PICS and influenced my topic choice. I will be writing about the media response to COVID-19 in Poland and the Czech Republic. Combining the time period I am living in, my academic background, and my media internship together will be exciting to study and learn more about.

Yushan Cao
BA International Studies ‘22
Research Project on "State Sexual Violence" with
Professor Ragnhild Nordås

I am an International Studies major with an emphasis on Political Economy and Development. I plan to pursue a career in international relations and public policy, and pursue graduate school upon graduating from the University of Michigan. Pursuing International Studies as my major provided me with a vision and motivation to explore gender inequality beyond my community and on a global scale. Hence, I participated in the summer research/internship on Professor Ragnhild Nordås’ project on state sexual violence, learning how to turn my knowledge into empirical output to promote women’s rights, gender equality, and international peace-seeking. By reading and coding each country’s reports, I better understand women’s plight and the state committed sexual violence. I also utilized the research means and procedure that I learned from work in my independent research. This internship experience was a vital step to my long-term career goal — to utilize research and action to empower women economically, socially, and politically. My goal is to empower those marginalized and give voice to those whose voices cannot be heard. In my focus area, the primary task is to study and support Chinese women whose rights are exploited under capitalism and the patriarchal system. My further goal is to establish collaborations between women in East Asian countries who share a similar historical background and subsistent plight under the structured state-enforced gender inequality framework on a transnational scale. 

Thanks to the Program in International and Comparative Studies, I am one step closer to that goal. Being awarded the 2021 PICS Summer Fellowship lightened my financial burden which allowed me to focus more on the most important aspect of my goal: learning and researching. This financial grant significantly compensated for my living cost while staying and working in Ann Arbor. Your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will help others achieve their goals just as you have helped me. Thank you again for your generosity and support.

Natalie Gilbert
BA International Studies; minor, History of Law and Policy ‘22
Fulbright Slovakia

I am a PICS Honors student with a concentration in International Security, Norms and Cooperation. Over this summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to take part in an internship with the Fulbright Slovakia commission. This commission is a part of the wider Fulbright program which aims to foster U.S.-foreign state relations through cultural and academic exchange. This was an extremely exciting experience because the Slovakian commission is relatively new compared to other commissions and they are looking to expand the number of exchange students. My role in this internship was to be a social media intern. I was tasked with the job of helping to create the commission’s new LinkedIn profile and monitoring the commission's existing platforms. This was a great experience because although I had previous experience working professionally on an outreach campaign, it was never for an organization that was quite to this scale. One of the most memorable experiences I had during this internship was all the collaborative meetings that our team had. It was great to discuss everyone’s vision and hopes for the future of this organization. It also was a very impactful experience to see that my work is directly affecting the organization and Fulbright grantees.

This internship really helped advance my educational goals. In the future, I hope to be an international lawyer, so having experience as an international intern helped me to learn more about what working abroad may be like and how international internships differ from domestic ones. This internship also opened my eyes to the array of international careers that I can do with my International Studies degree and helped me develop many invaluable skills that I can bring to the workforce in the future. 

Overall, this internship was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am immensely grateful for. I thank the Program in International and Comparative Studies for helping to participate in this experience through providing me funding. As a first generation, low-income college student I can undoubtedly say that if it were not for PICS, I would not have been able to afford such an amazing opportunity. I am also extremely grateful to be a part of PICS because their gracious student funding for internships and academic travel really illustrates how devoted the program is to helping students succeed.

Stanislaw Gunkel
BA International Studies; BA German; minor, Environment ‘23
Internship with
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Shorebird Conservation and Outreach

I want to sincerely thank and acknowledge the generosity of the University of Michigan Program in International and Comparative Studies and the entire PICS staff for supporting my internship work with a Summer 2021 Research and Internship Fellowship. I am a University of Michigan junior pursuing a double major in International Studies: Global Environment and Health, and German with a minor in Environment. I worked this past summer on an Americorps / Student Conservation Association Internship for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chicago Field Office as a Shorebird Conservation and Outreach Intern. This position supported the protection of endangered species, specifically the Great Lakes Piping Plovers which were near extinction in the 1980s. The conservation work of USFWS, IDNR, USDA, Chicago Audubon Society, Chicago Ornithological Society, and Illinois Ornithological Society has been mobilized since 2019 when a piping plover pair nested for the first time in Chicago in almost 70 years. I have been a volunteer monitor on the Chicago Piping Plover Project since 2019. The USFWS Internship in 2021 moved my conservation work to a new level. 

The fellowship funding allowed me to purchase a spotting scope necessary for my field work at Montrose Beach Dunes Habitat in Chicago on the Chicago Piping Plover Project which monitors and protects the endangered nesting pair of piping plovers known as Monty & Rose. This was an invaluable piece of equipment, as we had to view the endangered Piping Plovers from a distance, and the 60x magnification on the scope allowed me to do so with ease. The endangered piping plovers nest in a protected habit restored over years of conservation work by the Friends of Montrose Dunes. Using the high magnification power of my scope, I was able to zero in on the bird and identify the 5 colored bands it had on its legs. Turns out, it was actually the half brother of one of the breeding Plovers at Montrose Beach! I felt extremely fulfilled after this experience, as this was something I could not have accomplished without the spotting scope. This discovery caused quite a stir in the birding community as these are endangered species with only 70 breeding pairs total in the Great Lakes. To document seven endangered piping plovers simultaneously at Montrose Dunes was a high point for the conservation team.

The support of my USFWS Service Internship allowed me to perform endangered species protection field work as well as the outreach portion of the internship duties, where I was able to engage visitors, onlookers, birders and tourists in the importance of conservation by showing them the plovers and their chicks onsite through the scope. This creates excitement and interest in the general public, raising the awareness of endangered species protection efforts. I thank PICS for supporting this incredible experience which has helped determine my plans for environmental policy and conservation biology graduate education.

Alena Honig
BA International Studies; BS Architecture ‘23
Research Project on “Social media, youth, and election violence in Francophone Africa” with
Dr. Justine Davis, U-M Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP)

This summer, I worked as a research assistant under post-doctoral fellow Dr. Justine Davis on her project “Social media, youth, and election violence in Francophone Africa,” which focuses on the African country of Côte d’Ivoire and how Ivoiriens of various political groups were interacting with current events over social media in the last five years. I began my time with this project as a student in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) in Fall 2020. I was very fortunate to have been offered the opportunity to continue my work with Dr. Davis this summer. I continued coding the content of several hundred Facebook posts from major political groups in Côte d’Ivoire in order to gain a greater comprehension of political and electoral violence in the nation in relation to these various groups. I was also able to develop my data analysis skills by learning how to review coded data and reorganize data sets. 

Overall, my summer experience aided by the fellowship grant has furthered my International Studies educational goals in countless ways. Primarily, this project has allowed me to study and understand a nation outside of the scope of my education so far. Reviewing the individual perspectives of citizens in Côte d’Ivoire through social media posts helped me comprehend the country from a more personal standpoint rather than looking over facts and statistics in a classroom setting. I gained insight into different views on governmental institutions and political candidates within an emerging democracy. Because these views diverged from the educational norm that is centered around Western culture and ideals, I am now even more capable of recognizing cultural biases and appreciating cultural differences, which is something I believe to be central to PICS and International Studies. Additionally, working on this project allowed me to practice my French language skills through comprehension and analysis of informal text. What was most influential for me was learning more about African variations of standard French, which have been influenced by many other languages and are indicative of a very unique culture that is not often taught in classrooms. Finally, while I have formed a deep appreciation for the content of the study and its many applications, I have also gained countless skills simply from being part of a supportive research team. I strengthened my dedication to an expected methodology and thoroughness in my work. My organizational and interpersonal skills have also developed throughout the course of my time as a research assistant, which has ultimately enabled me to be a better member of a team and work above and beyond to exceed expectations. 

These skills and experiences are something I hope to take with me as I continue my education in PICS while I continue to focus on other unique political and cultural events throughout the world with an open mind. I would like to personally thank the Program of International and Comparative Studies for supporting my summer experience. Working on this research project has given me the opportunity to become a better student and a better member of a team, in addition to all of the research skills I have gained. Thank you, PICS and the Summer Fellowship award for making that possible and for being an important part of my educational journey.

Irisa Lico
BA International Studies ‘22
Research project at
The International Security and Intelligence Programme at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom

First, I want to start out by thanking the PICS Summer Fellowship for giving me the aid I needed to explore this amazing program. More importantly, I want to thank Jo Rumsey for the donation and supporting my experience abroad. Being a low income student at the University of Michigan can feel super overwhelming sometimes. If it was not for the fellowship I would have never been able to attend this prestigious program at Cambridge University.

This summer I had the opportunity to attend The International Security and Intelligence Programme that was hosted by the Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge in July.This program made it possible for me to make a lot of connections and I can now send a quick email in case I need a job or any sort of help in the future. The professors that led the program were so intelligent on the topics and genuinely wanted everyone to learn from them.

During the program I got to hear from amazing speakers. During our Q&A sessions, I was able to ask many questions to see if I was interested in the careers that these speakers were presenting on. This was the first time that I had the chance to hear about the Foreign Service. I am currently applying to graduate schools that focus on foreign policy in hopes to pursue a career in Foreign Service.

Emmanuel Orozco Castellanos
BA International Studies; minor, Translation Studies; minor, Latin American and Caribbean Studies ‘23
Internship for

This summer, I was fortunate enough to find an internship that allowed me to put my PICS education to work. As a Social Services and Outreach Coordinator, I was able to utilize my knowledge and skills internationally. My work for AsylumConnect aimed to help LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum-seekers in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico find inclusive services. This professional opportunity was a valuable complement to my international studies education. First, I gained hands-on experience in the global nonprofit sector and the role of NGOs in addressing transnational problems. Second, this internship allowed me to put my knowledge of human rights into practice and taught me about the role of human rights workers on the ground. Finally, interning for AsylumConnect provided multiple opportunities to practice my multilingual skills, global citizenship, and multicultural competence. Ultimately, this summer, I was able to pursue a professional opportunity that truly transcended borders.  

Above all, my internship experience with AsylumConnect helped me consolidate the knowledge I have acquired throughout my undergraduate career. I am convinced that my PICS education equipped me well for this internship and set me up for success. I feel incredibly honored for having used my PICS education to contribute to AsylumConnect’s noble mission of defending the rights of LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers  internationally. This summer, I may have accomplished many professional goals: I gained hands-on experience in international NGOs, learned directly from human rights defenders, and practiced global citizenship. Still, the most important lesson I learned over the summer was how impactful my PICS education is: its impact can, in fact, transcend borders, as my work with AsylumConnect illustrates. 

Armando Otero IV
BA International Studies; BA Anthropology ‘22
Research Project to explore how generations of Puerto Ricans have developed uniquely towards United States-Puerto Rico relations

I am a U-M senior from Puerto Rico majoring in International Studies and Anthropology. During this past summer, I was given the opportunity to perform research in my home island of Puerto Rico in preparation for my PICS Honors thesis. This research aimed to gather data such as documents, logs, transcripts and audio recordings of interviews, all of which revolve around Puerto Rico’s unique colonial status, and its citizens’ response to separatist movements in the island. 

As an independent researcher, the PICS funding was extremely valuable to ensure that the research performed was done correctly and produced quality results. I traveled to mountain regions of the island, to the coastal plains and even to an island township accessible by ferry. The research grant gave me the freedom to move freely, stay in certain townships for more than a day if needed, and allowed me to acquire the gear needed to conduct interviews and obtain clear, good quality recordings such as microphones, and secure storage devices. Additionally, as a Puerto Rican who is incredibly passionate about my home country, this research project holds an incredible personal value to me.  As the year carries on, I will look forward to expanding this research into a solid, well-written Honors thesis; achieving my goal of getting the Puerto Rican struggle and stories the attention it deserves, while learning from and contributing to the Program in International and Comparative Studies.

Dylan Prime
BA International Studies; BA Spanish ‘22
Internship with
Lincoln International 

I am tremendously grateful and appreciative of having had the opportunity to complete an in-person internship in Chicago this summer. I worked as an investment banking summer analyst for Lincoln International - a middle market investment banking company. While the work was challenging and the hours were long, I really found enjoyment in what I was able to accomplish. It was an honor to be able to provide actual work contributions to my teams and the projects that we worked on. I’m so thankful for PICS and its support for me to live in the city and helping me figure out some essentials for apartment life (groceries, transportation, equipment, etc.)!

I think what I enjoyed most about my internship was the opportunity to form relationships with the other interns and full-time workers at the company. Lincoln boasts a supportive, familial, collegial culture that reflects the moral sentiments and values of its employees. This ideology is my favorite part about Lincoln, as this type of culture is similar to some of the communities / clubs I’m fortunate enough to be a part of at the University of Michigan. 

I believe that my summer internship helped advance my U-M International Studies educational goals through exposure to the corporate world on international and domestic levels. I was able to research and learn about how a plethora of companies - some in different industries - operate intrinsically and how they interact with other entities in order to optimize their financial returns. It was also interesting to learn about how companies will cater their operations towards their values (ex: sustainability). Since my path through the International Studies program is political economy and development, it was surreal to work with companies where domestic and international policies impact their day-to-day operations and economics. 

Naomi Rosen
BA International Studies; BA History; Honors ‘23
Internship with
T.A.R.A. Strategic Consulting in Tel Aviv, Israel

This past summer, I interned at T.A.R.A—a strategic consulting firm in Tel Aviv, Israel. T.A.R.A pairs nonprofits and NGOs with the proper government ministries to aid these organizations in achieving their goals and solving their problems. In my role as an intern, I conducted research, wrote essays that summarized and compiled this information, and attended meetings with key clients. When searching for an internship, I wanted to work in an international government office to learn how other governments outside of the U.S. functioned. Although T.A.R.A is not a governmental organization, rather a private firm, my experience was influential in shaping my career and educational goals. I found that I really enjoyed working adjacent to, instead of within, the government. From my experience, as made possible by the PICS fellowship, I am now more interested in global health issues, and further motivated to become fluent in both Hebrew and Arabic. I researched the states of mental health resources and services in other countries to compare their situations to Israel. This way, T.A.R.A could effectively lobby the Israeli Ministry of Health to increase the incentives for being a psychologist or neurologist, and generally improve mental health resources in Israel.

Part of the reason I chose to intern in Israel was that it is known to be a country in a uniquely complicated political situation. I am thankful for the fellowship funding that allowed me to expand my academic interests in global health. I also am now much more motivated to improve my reading and writing skills in Hebrew and gain fluency in Arabic. As my internship was conducted solely in Hebrew, I struggled at the beginning to understand complex research papers and write academic essays. Although I persevered and succeeded, I want to take more Hebrew classes so that the level of my Hebrew can completely match that of my English.

Overall, I had a very positive internship experience as made possible by the PICS fellowship. I was exposed to a line of work I had not otherwise been particularly interested in and improved my Hebrew skills greatly. I am now even more excited to return to classes and explore these new passions in the Program in International and Comparative Studies.

Shoshana Weinstein
BA International Studies; BA Political Science ‘23
Internship with
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri

This summer, I was awarded the 2021 PICS Summer Research and Internship Grant for my internship at the ACLU of Missouri. At this internship, I worked as a complaint counselor for the ACLU. My position afforded me a great amount of responsibility within the intake process for potential new clients. Essentially, individuals who feel that their civil liberties have been violated fill out a complaint with the ACLU, and the complaint counselors (including myself) evaluate whether these complaints should be brought to the ACLU’s legal department. This usually entails interviewing the complainant, gathering evidence, and then either closing the complaint or escalating it to legal. 

My internship at the ACLU has allowed me to participate in the legal system firsthand, giving me a new perspective on how laws and policies shape individual lives. This internship therefore far surpassed my goals; whereas I initially pursued a degree in International Studies in order to learn more about immigration law and policy, my ACLU internship taught me about immigration law and the legal system as a whole. This experience has moved me so much closer to my International Studies goal of gaining genuine understanding for those who have different cultures, identities, and experiences than myself.

I cannot thank the Program in International and Comparative Studies enough for supporting me during my internship. The 2021 PICS Summer Research and Internship Grant helped cover a large portion of my rent for the summer, which allowed me to focus on my unpaid internship without worrying about having a place to live. Thanks to this grant, I only had to work part time, and this gave me the ability to give my full attention and my best work to this internship. Furthermore, taking International Studies classes prepared me for this experience by strengthening my research skills, fostering my curiosity, and sharpening my analytical thinking.