FALL SEMESTER ONLY (WGST 393)
The Department of Women’s and Gender Studies Internship Program (WGST 393) allows students the opportunity to receive course credit while gaining practical experience in a variety of fields concerned with feminist issues. The internship has two components: (1) work in a local agency and (2) a weekly class taught by a WGST faculty member.
- Work in a local agency: under the supervision of qualified professionals, interns complete a minimum of 84 hours (not including training) directly contributing to the work of their chosen organization by planning programs, researching, interacting with clients, and completing other projects. Students learn first-hand about legal, policy, and counseling work in many fields, including reproductive health; child development; sexual assault; domestic violence; and substance abuse and recovery.
- Weekly class: while gaining practical, hand-on, experience at an organization, students also meet once a week with other interns and a WGST faculty member to discuss their work. As part of the course, students think through the possibilities, strategies, and ethical issues associated with service learning and the significant power inequalities that often emerge in “the field.” Students will gain an understanding of feminist ethics, organizing, and activism and of how structures for feminist work are implemented and supported over the course of an organization’s life.
The three-credit course fulfills the general education “experiential education” (EE) requirement and, for WGST majors and minors, can replace one “perspectives” course. Students must arrange the internship with the organization and secure the permission of the faculty member prior to registering for WGST 393.
Offered Fall semester only. Prerequisites: WGST 101 and instructor permission. (EE)
Agencies currently accepting WGST interns
- Adolescent Parenting Program
- Child Care Services Association
- Compass Center for Women and Families (formally The Women’s Center and FVPC)
- Durham Crisis Response Center
- Freedom House Recovery Center
- North Carolina Council for Women/Domestic Violence Commission
- Orange County Rape Crisis Center
- Orange County Sheriff’s Office/Crisis Intervention Unit
- UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention*
- UNC Horizons Program*
*We encourage students to consider off-campus internships first, before considering these on-campus or UNC-affiliated off-campus sites
Dayla Mendez, Class of 2016
“This past spring semester I had the opportunity to work as a Latino Services intern at the Compass Center for Women and Families. I started by doing mainly interpreting and translation. I found that increasing access to resources for the Latinx community is more than just translating all documents to Spanish, although that is also necessary. When looking at a database, you must think about things like social security requirements. Learning to look for culturally sensitive information is an important part of creating a more inclusive environment.
I was also trained as a hotline advocate and was able to see how problems are easily compounded for the Latinx population. For example, there is no domestic violence shelter in Orange County so clients have to be referred to neighboring counties. Aside from distance and transportation issues, Latina clients, must also deal with factors such as hostile conditions. While shelters aren’t supposed to check for documentation there are cases in which they have been denied entry. Many shelters lack or have limited bilingual staff and have predominantly English speaking victims. As an advocate, you must consider these factors and explain them to a client before making plans to move them to a shelter. If they are very likely to leave a shelter, it may ultimately be safer for them to stay with their abuser.
One of the key approaches at the Compass Center was that of empowering the client to make their own choices. Many clients come from situations in which they have been powerless to make their own decisions and have had decisions made for them by their abuser, law enforcement, and those around them. It is all too easy to decide what the correct “feminist choice” would be from afar. One could say that deciding to return to an abuser or not ending an abusive relationship is the anti-feminist, wrong choice. However, in coercing or guilting a victim of domestic violence into leaving a relationship when they are not ready, we are employing the same manipulative tactics as their abuser. Instead, we must provide the support to allow them to decide for themselves what is best and ensure they do not feel guilt or shame over the actions they must take for self-preservation. The fact that they made that choice of their own volition is what, by default, makes it a feminist act.”