ASU Law students promote human rights, international development through summer internship program

September 23, 2020

Gaining hands-on experience with organizations in developing countries around the world, students from Arizona State University's Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law are helping to advance human and civil rights, promote democracy and affect other global issues through the International Rule of Law and Security summer internship program.

Through the internship program, ASU Law Juris Doctor, Master of Legal Studies and Master of Laws students use their legal research, writing and other skills in working with the organizations, many of which are understaffed or underfunded. So having access to the caliber of talent ASU Law students contribute, even just for 10 weeks over the summer, makes a tremendous difference. screenshot of a Zoom meeting between ASU students and Judge Jerlie Requerme ASU Law International Rule of Law and Security summer interns meet with Judge Jerlie Requerme via Zoom to discuss access to justice issues in the Philippines. Download Full Image

The program started last summer with four ASU Law students interning in the Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste at the Judicial System Monitoring Program and the Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice. ASU Law significantly expanded the program for 2020, more than tripling the number of interns over last year.

This year’s 13 students worked remotely for the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa and Corruption Watch in Johannesburg, South Africa; the Ateneo Human Rights Center and the Commission on Human Rights in Manila, Philippines; and the Judicial System Monitoring Program and the Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice in Dili, Timor-Leste.

“Through working on challenging legal issues in another country and learning about the role of international law, (International Rule of Law and Security) interns have been able to build experience that will help them land jobs after graduation and contribute to the work of local organizations protecting the rights of vulnerable people,” said Professor Julia Fromholz, director of the International Rule of Law and Security program. “We are also developing long-term relationships with the organizations that host our students, and we look forward to sending more interns to them in person as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

Gaining valuable work experience by putting into practice what they learn at ASU Law and working with diverse groups of people and organizations, the program's student interns say the experience is helping to shape the remainder of their time at law school and their thoughts on future careers.

Sharon Foster, ASU Law 2021 JD candidate, conducted research for a report on prisoners’ rights at the Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice in Timor-Leste. Priyal Thakkar, ASU Law 2022 JD candidate, worked on several topics pertaining to women’s and sexual rights at Initiative for Strategic Litigation, a pan-African, feminist strategic litigation NGO in Johannesburg.

They recently shared what the experience meant to them on video:

Video by ASU Law

While the 2020 summer interns participated remotely due to COVID-19, they will all have the opportunity to visit their internship host organizations and cities when it is safe to travel.

Summer 2021 applications are expected to open in January.

Read more about ASU Law students who interned at the Initiative for Strategic Litigation here and those with the Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice here.

You can also learn more from the students in their blog posts:

• "Consular obligations Concerning Human Trafficking Survivors" by Isabella B. Ruggeri, a JD 2021 candidate.

• "Problems and Parallels in Policing: The United States and Timor-Leste" by Foster.

• "A Possible Path Forward for Global Climate Change Litigation" by Maria L. Hodge, JD 2021 candidate.

Julie Tenney

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Start locally to enact change globally, ASU student advises

September 23, 2020

Arizona State University junior Kelli Brown has a hard time describing what she’s studying to her family over holiday breaks. Her varied interests and thirst for knowledge have led her down an academic path pursuing interdisciplinary degrees in global health and global studies, and certificates in socio-legal studies and evolutionary medicine.

“I’m a little bit all over the place,” Brown said. “It can be hard for me to wrap my head around all of it, too.” portrait of ASU student Kelli Brown Kelli Brown Download Full Image

It boils down to her drive to be an involved global citizen with a desire to enact change through education and public policy.

In her time at ASU, Brown has made connections around the world, conducted research and contributed to a soon-to-be-published paper. 

Start small and see what happens

A Flinn Scholar, Millennium Fellow, policy advocate and intern, Brown recommends starting small to make an impact.

“Whatever you feel is really important in a global sphere, you can work on here first, and ASU has a lot of resources for you to start those projects in your community,” Brown said. “Then, you can be more effective at influencing the global sector after graduation.”

This is exemplified in Brown’s undergraduate involvement. As a sophomore, she became involved with a group of motivated ASU students seeking to change Arizona legislation around sex education. The project has grown and now, through the Millennium Campus Network, Brown has contacts at universities in Nigeria, India and France, who have similar goals in their regions. 

Brown appreciates the complexities of sex education policy, understanding a lot of the progress will have to come from changing ideas, attitudes and norms, which relates to a literature review she completed with ASU researcher Roseanne Schuster this past summer. 

The idea of starting small is also seen in Brown’s contributions to a health education program she’s co-leading with ASU’s Changemaker Central. Brown created a program to educate high school students about the transition into college and adulthood, preparing them for success. Perseverance was key.

“That was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done in my life just because we hit a lot of dead-ends,” Brown said. 

Now, because of connections developed through Changemaker, Brown and colleagues have a community partner, A New Leaf, and plan to launch remote health seminars in the next couple of months. 

Continuing to grow during COVID-19

Brown kept moving forward over the summer of 2020 when COVID-19 changed her study abroad plans. She continued her research apprenticeship with Schuster, conducting a literature review about norms and behavior change campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa. Brown said the first few months were a lot of trial and error, learning what protocols to search for and how to navigate the USAID database. There were approximately 800 articles to review over the summer.

“Kelli remained dedicated to this study and to our team through the tumultuous spring 2020 semester,” Schuster said. “When COVID-19 was upending many aspects of life and learning, she continued to volunteer on this research over the summer, even training two new students who joined the team.”

Brown said helping train the other students on how to conduct the research was a good way to refocus on the big-picture purpose of the work.

Along with this research, Brown completed a summer internship with the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, where she produced a policy brief about recent changes in child welfare policy and what that means for Arizona’s child welfare system. 

At home at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change

When applying for college, Brown originally wanted to pursue nursing but realized bedside care was not the right fit for her.

“I feel empathy towards people,” Brown said, “but I didn’t think caring for them in that capacity was the best way for me to express that empathy or make it productive.”

In deciding global health was a more fitting path, Brown noted many programs focused largely on public health or pre-med, but found ASU’s anthropology-based global health degree program to be the perfect match. 

Brown’s interests align with the interdisciplinary coursework within the global health program. She was enthralled with Associate Professor Katie Hinde’s “Building Babies” class, noting she had played Hinde’s TED Talk “on repeat” since she was a teenager because she found the research so important and fascinating. 

“I love the faculty, the way they develop the courses and the way they run the courses themselves. My adviser is awesome,” Brown said. “I’ve just been so happy with every aspect of SHESCThe School of Human Evolution and Social Change. It’s just like my home base. Up until now, I was doing homework there all the time. It really felt like the place where I was meant to be, where I’ve wanted to be. And I’ve really loved being a student there.”

What’s next

This fall, Brown is working on her Barrett, The Honors College thesis project, aiming to better understand what compels ASU students to vote, including how social connections play a role in that decision. Brown’s adviser is Alison Cook-Davis, associate director for research with the Morrison Institute for Public Policy. 

After obtaining her undergraduate degrees, Brown may go to graduate school or take some time off. “I’m very much a planner,” she said. “But right now I feel comfortable in my unknown because there are a lot of options and one isn’t necessarily better than the other.”

Either way, she can see herself going into a career in international affairs or public policy, and her experience and research has helped her prepare to be a global changemaker.

Taylor Woods

Communications program coordinator, School of Human Evolution and Social Change