Libby Kao ’17
Overview: My civil rights law and policy internship at the US Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center involves shadowing the director’s meetings, trainings, and events, and working on research and writing projects.
I’m investigating potential gender and racial discrimination in disciplinary action in the National Job Corps. We conduct program and policy research, draft proposals and memos, and strategize for a presentation to the job corps director that aims to produce dialogue about potential trainings, policy guidance, or program design. In addition, I assist offices at the Civil Rights Center, preparing document requests and writing standard operating procedures.
Did anyone at Mount Holyoke College help arrange this internship?
My internship director, MHC alumna Naomi Barry-Perez, made this Lynk-funded internship opportunity possible. This is apparently the first time such a position was created for undergraduate students instead of those in law school.
She has been extraordinarily kind and helpful, from passing along information about housing in Washington, DC to welcoming me literally with open arms on the first day. She has entrusted us with substantive and eye-opening work projects and encourages and challenges us through each step of our tasks.
Janet Lansberry at MHC’s Weissman Center for Leadership provided a safe space, a listening ear, and insights during my decision process after receiving the internship offer. Her presence throughout this entire Lynk journey is the greatest reason that I developed the confidence and perspective to be here in DC now.
Has this experience given you unexpected opportunities?
The Lynk program and the “MHC in DC” initiative connected me with the DC Alumnae Club, where I’ve met many alumnae in the fields of legal and policy work, which I’d like to pursue. At their events, I found out about graduate schools, fellowships, and entry-level attorney programs in public service. These were instrumental to envisioning where a pre-law track could take me.
At work, day-to-day interactions with fellow student interns and senior staff members alike have taught me, by example and by conversation, what it’s like to engage with this work and its professional community.
What has this internship opportunity meant to you?
Coming to DC for the first time as expanded my understanding of what’s possible, what the possibilities look like, and what they could lead to. It’s pushing me to cut through all the intimidations I’ve associated with “the real world.” I’m taking the skills and perspectives I’ve cultivated through coursework, research, and community engagement at Mount Holyoke and lining them up with daily reality. It is one immense, summer-long lesson in independence, diligence, and possibility. It’s teaching me to grow up, and that I might be more ready for it than I’d expected.
Was MHC funding for this internship important in your decision to accept the opportunity?
To me, it meant, “You can’t not do this now. There is nothing holding you back; there is only amazing opportunity ahead, and either you take it now, or it goes to someone else.” This was the push that I needed to take a leap of faith and launch myself into exploring the professional legal world of public service in the nation’s capital.