Upon Reflection: Letter from an Outgoing Intern

Photo taken in the Summer of 2018. From left to right: Nancy Pearson, Shelby Ankrom, Andy Pham, Emily Hutchinson, Brent Jensen, Catherine Johnson.

Who knew that fateful day when New Tactics in Human Rights gave me an opportunity to work with them was the moment when they would become my very important family for the next three years? Having the privilege to be the intern that has spent the most time with them, ever, (I know, some may question my dubious decision making skills), I have gained worlds of knowledge and matured beyond expectations.

Studying economics, international development, and religious studies at Macalester College, engaging in human rights seemed to be a pragmatic outlet. I had the potential to scrutinize theories by experiencing the complex social and bureaucratic processes of the “real world”, kindly provided by New Tactics. For example, for something as mundane as gathering conversation leaders for our bi-monthly online conversations, inviting strangers for a common goal requires much tact, research and planning. The hands on approach provided me a nuanced understanding of the incompleteness of social theories without the lived experience aspect.

One major highlight of my time here was my involvement in the Tactical Mapping Tool project. I felt excited to put effort into something that had such great potential to change the landscape of online human rights activism. I had the chance to participate in Skype meetings with our UX/UI developers, create an all-inclusive manual and help guide, and attend MNxMN, a social activist conference, to help promote the tool to our Minnesota community members.

Yes, all these assignments, projects, meetings and events were undoubtedly crucial to my intellectual and professional development. However, those elements alone did not make my time here at the Center for Victims of Torture worthwhile. The relationships built slowly over time created spaces for genuine conversations surrounding academics, politics, traveling, food, world events, finance, mental health, and much more. Never at any work site before did my supervisors voluntarily care so much for my well-being.

Upon further reflection, I would like to leave future New Tactics interns with a few pieces of advice.

  1. Don’t be afraid to connect with people from other departments. Ask them to get coffee with you or join them at lunch. Not only can you learn more about the internal operations of a human rights non-profit, they can also answer any questions you have about their professional trajectories or general life advice.
  2. Be proactive with your projects. Sometimes, you may be able to work on something which interests you specifically. Take that unique opportunity to do that.
  3. Retain a critical eye with your work. Feel free to ask questions or comment on things that you are unsure about.

Finally, I would like to thank you, Brent, Nancy, Emily, and those who had an impact on my time here, for their investment in my personal growth. You were one of the main reasons for me coming back year after year, even including an entire summer! I am also appreciative for the other fellow interns that helped me on my projects. We created many fond memories filled with laughter and joy. New Tactics will always have a place in my heart. Thank you!

- Andy Pham, Macalester '19

Photo taken in the Summer of 2018. From left to right: Nancy Pearson, Shelby Ankrom, Andy Pham, Emily Hutchinson, Brent Jensen, Catherine Johnson.