MHR Student Learns New Ways to Further Advocate for Refugees
Mikyla Denney (MHR '21) is a second year Master of Human Rights student with a concentration in immigration/migration. Over the summer, Mikyla worked with Refugees International, assiting the organization's President Eric Schwartz on a range of projects and research initiatives. Read our interview with Mikyla below to hear about her experience.
Human Rights Program (HRP): Please describe your summer internship or project and the work that you did during this time.
Mikyla Dennedy (MD): This summer I had the privilege to intern with Refugees International (RI) as the Program Intern under the supervision of RI President Eric Schwartz. I assisted my supervisor with various tasks such as note taking, writing memos, and research.
HRP: What made you choose this internship specifically? How does the work you were doing this summer relate to your area of study at UMN?
MD: I chose to intern with RI because my concentration and interests are geared toward immigration and refugee issues. I also have experience working with refugees in the past in the form of direct service and wanted to experience the advocacy side of things. I had heard great things about RI from previous students and interns. My studies at UMN focus on the issues faced by immigrants and refugees and my internship showed me different ways to advocate for change for these issues.
HRP: What kinds of projects have you been working on this summer? Does one in particular stand out as being of great value and/ or interest?
MD: Throughout the summer I worked on a range of projects. I attended UNHCR and other webinars and took notes that I sent to my supervisor, who then dispersed them to the rest of the staff. I wrote a memo on diverse hiring practices, part of which was implemented to fill a position over the summer. I also created a list of resources that display daily/weekly updates on Covid-19 in regards to how it is affecting refugees and internally displaced persons. I wrote a short research paper on the issue of Israeli annexation of the West Bank. My final project was writing a published blog post on the accessibility of a Covid-19 vaccine for vulnerable populations.
HRP: What are some of your key takeaways from this experience?
MD: I have learned what various levels of advocacy look like and how to better adjust my writing style for various formats.
HRP: What skills or personal growth have you gained through doing this work?
MD: During my internship I was able to enhance my professional note taking skills and learned how to gear my writing for various formats. I also learned to better advocate for myself to ensure that I got the most out of my experience.
HRP: How has this experience challenged you? Was your work impacted by COVID-19?
MD: My experience made me more critical of my writing, especially in terms of what questions I am asking/addressing and answering. Due to Covid-19, my internship was remote instead of in Washington D.C. and much of the work/research I did revolved around Covid-19. Due to the online nature of the internship, I was not able to collaborate with my colleagues as much as I would have liked.
HRP: How will this experience help or inform your career path or professional interests?
MD: I want to advocate for change regarding the immigration and refugee processes and systems in the U.S. and around the world. My experience with RI has allowed me to explore various ways I can do just that.
HRP: Are there any other reflections you want to share about this experience?
MD: I was disappointed that I would not get the full experience of working in person in Washington D.C. with the amazing staff at RI. However, despite being remote, my internship gave me valuable opportunities and experiences and the skills and knowledge I gained will prove to be beneficial moving forward in my academic and professional career.