The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: SOPHIA SWANSON '23

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Sophia Swanson '23 interned at Human Rights First (HRF) during the 2021 winter term. The following is an excerpt from her internship report.

Human Rights First (HRF) is a non-profit, independent, non-governmental organization that responds to deteriorating human rights situations abroad and advocates for improvements to the United States’ human rights policies. In particular, the Foreign Policy team works to support pro-rights policies, delegitimize and fight counterproductive agendas, promote the rule of law, protect human rights defenders, and ensure accountability for rights abusers and kleptocrats abroad. In September 2020, I started working for the Foreign Policy team as the Dickey Center’s Class of 1986 International Intern. In the winter, as a Rockefeller Center intern, I continued my major project from the fall: analyzing the U.S. government’s human rights- and corruption-related targeted sanctions designations from 2003 through the end of the Trump Administration. In February, after presenting my work to the organization, I began drafting a report on my findings, namely the trends I identified in the use of targeted sanctions across different administrations, regions of the world, issue areas, and programs.

In addition to writing my report, I completed several short- and long-term research assignments to inform the team’s decisions and actions. I prepped the team leader on the E.U.’s sanctioning history, summarized U.S. designations of foreign judges, and compiled a list of sanctions legislation with status-based clauses. My work also involved monitoring current international events and Congressional activity. Each morning, I researched, wrote, and sent a summary of human rights events and publications from the day before. I also updated and edited segments of the team’s databases of human rights- and corruption-related sanctions and visa restrictions. In addition, I tracked Congressional recommendations for sanctions targets.

Through my colleagues’ willingness to schedule “virtual coffees” or pick up the phone, I developed meaningful relationships with the members of my team and gained valuable career insights from them and others. My supervisor and Foreign Policy staff members held several one-on-one meetings with me, during which they graciously answered all my questions about law school and their career choices. The former leader of the Foreign Policy team, even during his hectic transition to the Biden Administration, set aside a significant period of time to speak with me and offered to provide additional support in the future. I look forward to remaining in contact with these connections as I forge my own professional path. 

In many ways, this internship experience clarified what I arguably already knew going in: I love studying international relations. My internship enhanced my understanding of public policy formation, broadened my knowledge of current international crises, and taught me new hard skills to bring to the classroom and any future position. I also appreciated seeing that defending human rights – such a big, seemingly idealistic goal – can be achieved through practical steps and processes. I not only gained a greater awareness of the significant progress that remains to be made in American foreign policy, but also a deeper appreciation for my own rights and freedoms.

I greatly appreciate the Rockefeller Center’s efforts to fund students’ professional endeavors. Thank you for this grant and all that the Center does to support Dartmouth students interested in public policy.

The Rockefeller Internships Program has funding for Dartmouth undergraduate students to help defray the cost of living expenses associated with a full-time, unpaid, leave-term internships in the fields of public policy, public affairs, and social entrepreneurship.

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