Delving into Employment Discrimination

Yixi Chen ’16

Yixi Chen ’16

Yixi Chen ’16, Intern

Major: Economics and History

Employer: Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

The MCAD internship program provides individuals, including students, undergraduates, graduate students, law students, law school graduates, and attorneys with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in civil rights law enforcement. MCAD interns are provided with opportunities to observe a wide variety of legal proceedings. Please contact the CDC for more information. 

Yixi Chen ’16 delved into employment discrimination cases the summer of 2014. An Economics and History double major, Chen obtained an internship with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) in Springfield. The Chinese native worked at the main civil rights agency in the state in order to explore a potential career path in law and public policy.

Prior to starting the program, Chen participated in classroom training in discrimination law and the complaint process. During brown bag lunches with the MCAD staff, she received the opportunity to learn more about the prevention programs and met with other undergraduate, graduate and law students. In order to afford her unpaid internship, the former Enforcement Intern applied for the Lynk Universal Application Funding. She applied the $3,000 towards necessities, such as housing and food.

For three months, Chen joined an investigative commissioner and received the hands-on training she had been yearning for. The junior conducted multiple investigations of employment discrimination reports. She was expected to interview both parties in a case, call attorneys and report witness accounts. After compiling as much information as she could find, Chen recalled, “I [would] draft a document called deposition which would determine whether there is a probable cause.” Upon reviewing her research, Chen’s supervisor made the ultimate decision as to whether to pursue the claims.

The Mount Holyoke student also noted job complaints. “Basically I [wrote] their allegations and what happened, who discriminated against them and ask[ed] them a couple of questions.” She reflected how the intimate classroom experience at Mount Holyoke helped her complete her tasks. Chen explained, “I had some history and economics seminars where I learned how to present my opinions most, how do I say, precise way, and to know what you’re asking.” In reference to talking to attorneys, she remembered, “Sometimes they would give me a hard time, but if I [knew] what I [was] asking for and tried to keep what I [was] going to say to be concise and precise, that would be less troublesome.”

The weekly tasks fulfilled Chen’s desire to better understand legal proceedings. Her personal goals included leveraging strong writing and communication skills. In addition to accomplishing her goals, she detailed, “I also acquired interpersonal skills. I learned how to do active listening and how to get more details by asking follow-up questions.” When she returns to the Mount Holyoke community after studying abroad in the fall, Chen intends to enlist in more classes that expand on the lessons she’s learned from working in an office. In particular, she is interested in learning more about the history of law. Besides exploring more law-related courses, she also yearns to incorporate her newfound skills into the community. “I also learned about discrimination through a legal perspective and have this perspective in mind to eradicate discrimination.”

For this semester, Chen is applying her interests in an international context. During her study abroad in France, she will explore European and international policies. Her journey abroad to Paul Valéry University in Montpellier, she hopes, will confirm whether she will want to work internationally. In terms of opportunities for the following summer, she keeps her options open. “I’d like to conduct historical research, and potentially start working on a thesis. If not, I look forward to finding an internship at an international organization, possibly law related.” In terms of attending law school after graduation, Chen confided that her internship experience has made her take the option into serious consideration, “I’m interested in studying international law after graduation.”