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University of Iowa News Release

May 20, 2005

UI Center For Human Rights Awards Grants To Support Student Internships

University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR) has awarded grants to seven UI students to support their work in human rights organizations over the summer. Through the Human Rights Funded Internships program, the UICHR awarded funds to students who had already secured internships, either in the United States or abroad.

Three $2,500 awards were given to students who will complete their internships abroad.

* Alexis Bushnell, a senior history and political science major, will work with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre in cooperation with Global Youth Connect.

* Christophe Konkobo, a doctoral student in theatre, will travel to Rwanda with a delegation from the California Institute of the Arts to facilitate artistic responsive to mass violence and the establishment of A Center for the Study of Genocide and Culture.

* Law student Matthew Stromquist will work with Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa on land rights litigation and education.

Four $1,125 awards were given to students who will intern within the United States.

* Emily Carlson, a junior majoring in social work, will work with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philadelphia.

* Law student Robin Dull will serve with the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, staffed by the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City.

* Law student Edward Jones will pursue disability and environmental justice advocacy with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest in New York City.

* Medical student Yolanda Villalvazo will provide heath education and preventative health care services to migrant workers in eastern Iowa through Proteus, Inc. of Des Moines.

With this program, the UI joins other leading educational institutions, including the University of Minnesota, University of California at Berkeley, University of Chicago, Harvard University and Columbia University, in providing funds to students who wish to gain experiential knowledge about the work of international or national human rights organizations, said Kenneth Cmiel, UICHR director.

"I have been thinking about this program for nearly a decade and I'm extremely happy that we've made this start," Cmiel said. "This is something that a great institution like the University of Iowa should be doing."

Amy Weismann, UICHR deputy director, said the internships allow students to participate in a two-way education partnership, "learning about human rights education, advocacy and research from the sponsoring organization, while in turn providing their own experience and skills to make a significant contribution toward the organization's goals."

The UI Office of the Provost provided a substantial part of the funds awarded through the UICHR's program. "We are very grateful to Provost Michael Hogan for his generous support of this initiative. His support made the program possible," Cmiel said.

Weismann was pleased that 17 applications were received for this initial program, despite the fact that the program was only officially announced in late February at the Progressive Career Fair with an April 15 application deadline.

To receive funding, students were required to have obtained an internship with a human rights organization, submit a letter of agreement from the organization confirming their placement and plan of work and write a personal statement about what and how they expected to contribute to the organization and how the internship would advance their own personal and professional development.

The level of interest in the internship program has confirmed the Center's intention to continue to offer internship funding on an annual basis. The Center intends to continue to develop the program's available financial resources to support students. "I hope we can expand it to more grants next year," Cmiel said. The Center also is developing a resource library that will provide interested students with information about human rights organizations and available internship opportunities.

Eligibility guidelines and application deadlines for Summer 2006 internships will be announced in the fall. For more information, call or e-mail the UICHR, 319-335-3900 or, or visit the Center's Web page,

The UICHR is part of International Programs, which consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost for academic programs and dean of International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,; Program: Amy Weismann, 319-335-3900,; Writer: Julia LaBua