Note from Genavieve Koyn ’21, who wrote the below story: This article was first written in February, when the coronavirus still seemed far away. In the weeks that have passed, life has changed for everyone, including me and five fellow ILR students who had been interning in Washington, D.C. Although circumstances have changed, life has moved forward and this report details some of the ways we six have found our footing. I would like to thank Brigid Beachler for providing incredible support during this unprecedented time and the rest of the ILR administration for ensuring that interns were cared for during the disruption caused by the pandemic.
Students at ILR have many opportunities to enrich their experience outside of the classroom. One of these is the Credit Internship Program, which allows students to receive academic credit while spending a semester working in a professional internship in an ILR-related field. Students work for employers, including non-profit organizations, law firms, government agencies and private companies, in cities across the country. The spread of COVID-19 has impacted internships, but many have continued in remote settings.
This semester, six ILRies had internships in Washington, D.C.:
Genavieve Koyn ’21 worked in the Department of State's Office of International Labor Affairs, where she advocated for the advancement of workers' rights in the Middle East and North Africa. After her internship ended in mid-March due to the pandemic, Genavieve returned home to Buffalo, N.Y., where she is taking an online ILR class.
Mimi Goldberg ‘21 worked in the Department of State's Office of International Labor Affairs, where she coordinated with embassies around the world to compile data on forced and child labor. After her internship ended, she returned to her home in Arizona.
Kylie O'Donnell ’21 is continuing her internship at the law firm Bickerman Dispute Resolution where she works on a civil rights lawsuit concerning the death of an inmate in a D.C. jail and attending mediations with ILR alum John Bickerman ’78, M.S. ’79. Kylie is now working from home and communicates regularly with her boss. “It will never be as holistic an experience as going into the office everyday,” Kylie says, “but, I’m grateful for what we’ve been able to accomplish, given the circumstances.”
Bennett Sherr ’21 is working in the office of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Bennett works on constituent contact, attends hearings and briefs, and writes memos for staff. While senior Senate staff is working remotely, interns are not permitted to do regular work, so Bennet is completing career improvement assignments and hoping that he can return to work in the Senate in May.
David Leynov ’21 is interning with the Research and Strategic Initiatives Team of the American Federation of Teachers to monitor responsible investment of public pension and has continued this work remotely.
Maxwell Wagner ’20 is interning at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where he is responsible for interviewing potential clients and then analyzing and determining the strength of their potential cases. Max is working from his home in Rochester, N.Y.
Sabrina You ’21 is also working at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She does intakes for the agency, interviewing and educating members of the public about their labor rights and the EEOC process.
“Interning in D.C. allows students to explore career options and post-graduation possibilities, and the capital of our country, where history takes place every day,” said Brigid Beachler, managing director of ILR Off-Campus Credit Programs.
“ILR students who pursue internships in Washington, D.C. through the Credit Internship Program have the unique opportunity to engage with union leaders, policymakers and business executives working on the most pressing issues impacting our field. There's never been a more important time for our students to immerse themselves in the real-life implications of work and workplace policy. With over 40 internships available in the D.C. area, our students can easily tailor a meaningful experience that best meets their academic and professional goals,” she said.
In addition to the work at their internships, the credit internship students are all taking an ILR elective course taught by ILR alum Robert Molofsky ’72. The 2008 winner of ILR’s Groat Award, Molofsky is an labor union attorney, a legislative and political strategist, and a transit and labor policy expert.
Molofksy’s course, “Workplace Policy and Party Politics,” aims to increase students’ understanding of the complex interplay of the White House, Congress, regulatory agencies, interest groups, policy experts and grassroots organizations in shaping both domestic and international workplace policies.
Molofsky draws on his background as the general counsel of the International Amalgamated Transit Union to teach students how Washington functions, with a specific focus on labor. In addition, guest speakers have presented to the class, sharing their expertise on topics such as campaign finance law, political speechwriting and policy advocacy. Beacher noted, “One of the most important benefits of the Credit Internship Program is the opportunity for meaningful mentorship and networking opportunities afforded to our students by our alumni.”
Students interested in participating in the credit internship program, either in D.C. or elsewhere, can contact Beachler at email@example.com for more information.