Inside USD

Interns Complement Global Reach of IPJ

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thinking international is not a new concept for Verena Calas.

Growing up, her father, a native of Greece, regularly took family to European destinations between his home country and their U.S. home in Long Island, N.Y. Calas (pictured, right) then participated in the People to People Student Ambassador Program where she did a memorable trip to Japan while in high school. She enjoyed the experience so much that in 2011 she was an assistant leader for high school students traveling to Italy, Greece and southern France.

“I’m a big believer that everyone is a citizen of the world,” Calas said. “I think that being internationally aware makes you more well-rounded, a more understanding person. You’re better educated. It gives you a better breadth of knowledge.”

That’s why Calas, a senior history major and business administration minor at the University of San Diego, has taken another step in her international awareness as one of five summer interns at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ).

As an intern, an opportunity IPJ offers, too, in the fall (application deadline July 16) and spring semesters, she’s assigned to keep tabs on countries the institute is either doing hands-on research in or closely monitoring areas of conflict. The interns contribute to a weekly online publication with current news and information.

Calas is watching what’s happening in the Middle East, notably Syria and Egypt, and in Myanmar (Burma). She balances that task by working with six high school student interns in IPJ’s WorldLink Program.

“They’re looking at the power and influence the media has on the countries they’re covering and they’ll be giving a presentation at the end of the summer,” Calas said.

Calas, middle, along with fellow interns (pictured left to right) Xandra Scott (Univ. of Puget Sound senior), Caroline Cook (USD senior), Jaclyn Garcia (San Diego State graduate, Brandeis University MA) and Alex Wais (Tufts University junior), will give end-of-the-summer internship presentations on August 16.

“It’s really energizing to work closely with our very talented student interns,” said Elena McCollim, a senior IPJ program officer. “The applicants to the internship program are of very high caliber, and increasingly so each year.”

McCollim added that USD faculty members are great supporters. “They spread the word among their students, and have gone on to recommend some of our best interns over the years.”

Cook (pictured, right), a political science major and a French minor, covers Nepal — another highly visible country for IPJ staff work — and the Philippines. Her USD experiences include a semester study abroad in Paris, participation in Invisible Children’s USD chapter, Link Peer Mentoring Program, a communications coordinator in Associated Students government, Kappa Kappa Gamma and National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Garcia, who focuses on Sudan and South Sudan, earned degrees in International Security and Conflict Resolution and Religious Studies at SDSU and her master’s in global studies, emphasizing human rights and international development, at Brandeis. Garcia attended a USD talk by Kroc School of Peace Studies Visiting Peace Scholar John Prendergast about Darfur. She was impressed and knew that her passion for international work would eventually bring her to USD.

“I knew I’d want to come here in some capacity whether it was this or volunteering. I’m glad it’s worked out for me this summer. I love being here,” said Garcia, who has traveled to more than 10 countries, including doing work in Sweden. “I really feel I’m involved in what’s going on at the institute. I’ve been helping them with the many applications for the Women PeaceMakers Program.”

Scott is majoring in international relations at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., along with minors in Spanish and Gender Studies. Her IPJ plate is full as she tracks developments in Colombia, Guatemala, Cuba and Haiti. Guatemala, in particular, is important. Top IPJ staff members have done considerable research work there and often bring to campus events connected to Guatemala issues.

The IPJ internship is the latest in a string of interesting experiences for her. Scott interned at the National City, Calif.-based International Community Foundation, which has ties to USD’s Trans-Border Institute, and she worked in U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)’s San Diego office.

Scott’s main passion is human rights work. Her desire is “to do things in life where it’s not about the money, but that I want my career to matter in terms of helping others.”

Wais, an economics major at Tufts, is following events in Sri Lanka and Kenya. He’s the youngest intern of the group, but he has an impressive resume. His work experience includes the Center for Social Advocacy in San Diego, Price Charities, International Rescue Committee, San Diego Superior Court and the Mexican Institute of Family and Population Research in Mexico City. He’s also a member of Building Understanding through International Learning and Development (BUILD), an organization through which he’s done volunteer work in support of a project implemented in the department of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

Each intern’s insight and experience complements the diverse IPJ staff’s efforts quite well.

“It’s a very cool mix of people to be around; people who can share informed opinions and who have the same international mindset,” Calas said. “It helps, too, when we do peer edits because everyone wants to make it better.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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