My name is Shafina Khaki, and I am an intern at the UW Center for Human Rights (UWCHR). Similar to most undergraduate students, I came into this internship hoping to gain work experience in an area about which I was already passionate. The UWCHR is committed to interdisciplinary excellence in the field of human rights; promoting human rights as a core area of research; and engaging with an array of organizations and policymakers to advance respect for human rights. As a double major in Law, Societies, and Justice and Political Science, with minors focusing on human rights, it is fair to say that this internship encompassed much of my interests. What I didn’t know at the time I applied for the position was that this internship would impacted me on both a personal and professional level.
This internship allowed me to experience how an organization administratively supports its mission on a day-to-day basis; this has made me more confident, professionally. A small example is the Human Right’s Course list for Spring and Summer Quarter which, simply put, is a document providing UW students with details needed for registering for classes in the Human Rights Minor. It seems like such a small thing, but the time involved to ensure that this document was complete and easily accessible for students was astonishing. As a student myself, I never considered the work that went into a simple document that I use every quarter to register for classes. Another example is the way a non-profit reports annually. One of my first tasks at UWCHR, began with the associate director giving me what I saw as a sophisticated excel workbook containing all of the Center’s finances for the annual report. My job was to ensure the calculations were correct, display how these calculations were achieved, and create visuals of the numerical data. As a student specializing in humanities, the last time I glanced at a sheet with that much numerical data was senior year, high school calculus! And yet, with time and guidance, I successfully worked through it, gaining valuable insight into how a non-profit operates.
From the annual report, to compiling the human rights minor course lists, to working on the quarterly newsletter, and the many other tasks that came with these projects, I learned a wonderful truth: if we want people fighting for human rights on the ground in El Salvador, for example, a substantial administrative effort is required, even though it’s often unseen.
On a personal level, my interest in the field of human rights has grown immensely. Before starting at UWCHR, I founded a student organization years ago focusing on human trafficking specifically in the realm of sex slavery. I have also heavily involved myself in philanthropic efforts—at the University of Washington and outside of the UW community—to raise awareness and funding for global issues centering on education, health care, gender inequality and racism. But this internship with UWCHR has continued to broaden my knowledge on global human right issues. As an intern, I participated in a faculty colloquium and it was remarkable to network with scholars and faculty while conversing with them on innovative paradigms for human rights.
When given new tasks and projects that expose me to the administrative operations of a non-profit organization, I take to heart that the work UWCHR does is truly making an impact to the community at a local, national, and international level. I think for any student interested in an internship, it is important that you place yourself in an invigorating environment that allows you to play on your strengths while also exposing you to new things. The University of Washington should be proud to have such a remarkable center established to ensure real-life social change and justice. I am proud to be working an internship that inspires me, challenges me, and opens my eyes to the world around me. Needless to say, my experience as an intern for the Center of Human Rights has been remarkable, and I look forward to what is to come.