There are few things more thrilling for a political science major than being in Washington D.C. It is even more exciting if you are actually interning or working there instead of just sight-seeing and admiring all of the amazing things others are accomplishing. I spent this past summer doing a bit of both, largely because I was one of the recipients of the Wellman Hill Grant. While life in DC is amazing, it is by no means cheap, and like most internships, mine was unpaid. Luckily, I received the Wellman Hill Grant in lieu of a salary and was able to use it for living expenses during my internship.
As an intern for the Genocide Intervention Network (GI-NET), I had the opportunity to do work for the organization’s Membership Department and Conflict Risk Network. While I worked with the organization previously on CWRU’s campus, being an intern in the D.C. office allowed me to gain a more extensive understanding of how it functioned and contribute to it on an entirely different level. I was able to view and assist with member outreach and development on a national scale. Additionally, since GI-NET is an advocacy-based organization, I got the chance to participate in urgent advocacy actions. Along with the other interns, I delivered members’ letters to Congressmen and even participated in a phonebank prior to the Foreign Relations Committee hearing with the Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration. The next day I was able to attend the actual hearing and hear questions that GI-NET had pushed to have asked!
Furthermore, I was able to research corporate social responsibility (CSR). I spent a great deal of time looking into CSR guidelines created by corporations themselves or international organizations. I also researched case studies to see how companies implementing or failing to implement these guidelines affected the companies and their respective communities. I had never previously addressed human rights from a corporate standpoint to assess the effect that corporations can have on the communities in which they operate. The most interesting aspect of the research was seeing the effect that CSR standards have on companies; there was a multitude of cases where companies ignored their interactions with the surrounding communities only to find themselves in the midst of million dollar lawsuits for violating human rights or for creating environmental hazards. My research helped build a database that the Conflict Risk Network can use when engaging companies that operate in conflict regions to develop responsible investment strategies.
Interning with the Genocide Intervention Network this summer was an incredibly rewarding experience that I would not have been able to have without the Wellman Hill Grant. While I learned a vast array of skills, the takeaway message I got from this summer was that a person can really make an enormous difference. GI-NET was started by a few college students that decided to take the initiative on stopping the genocide in Darfur. The passion and dedication of its staff continue to be a true inspiration. Despite many people’s disillusionment with the political system, this summer really taught me that Margaret Mead was correct when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”