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University of Iowa News Release

April 28, 2006

UI Center For Human Rights Awards Internships

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

Beginning this year, the program has been renamed the Kenneth J. Cmiel Human Rights Funded Internships Program to honor the late director of the UICHR, who died unexpectedly in February as a result of an inoperable brain tumor. Establishment of the internships program in 2005 was the fulfillment of a longtime goal for Cmiel.

"Ken's vision, to make the Center a unique and valuable resource for student learning about human rights, his generous and effective leadership, and his commitment to human rights work in all its forms, brought this program to life and remains its guiding force," said Amy Weismann, deputy director of the UICHR.

The internships are an opportunity for students to participate in a two-way education partnership, according to Weismann. "The students learn 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," she said.

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, which made the program possible," Weismann said.

Six $2,300 awards were given to students who will complete their internships abroad:

Yayuk Mardiati, College of Education graduate student from Indonesia, Research Center for Women at the University of Jember in Indonesia. Mardiati will work with the Center's "Women's Empowerment in All Aspects of Life" program, which conducts workshops on entrepreneurship and coordinates a micro-enterprise development program for woman-owned business startups in some of the most impoverished rural areas of Indonesia.

Tiana Gierke, second-year law student from Bettendorf, Legal Aid of Cambodia. As a law clerk assigned to a Cambodian human-rights attorney, Gierke will assist with research, casework and advocacy defending and promoting human rights in Cambodia. As part of the clerkship, Gierke will conduct original research on the role of attorneys in promoting human rights in post-conflict societies such as Cambodia. She also will assist the organization with other aspects of its programming, which includes representing indigent clients in civil and criminal matters, combating judicial corruption and promoting societal reform to embrace the rule of law and human rights.

Monica Foley, Department of History graduate student from Iowa City, FAIR Fund in Africa. Foley will work with the organization's "Generation Aware! Engaging African Youth in Preventing Human Trafficking and HIV/AIDS" campaign. She will travel to one of six pilot communities in Tanzania, Uganda or Kenya, where she will work to determine the status of youth knowledge and attitudes regarding human trafficking, while coordinating the research efforts of local university students within their home communities. Foley will combine the data in a report that will be used by the FAIR Fund to create a public-awareness program. "Generation Aware!" is part of the organization's implementation of a model evidence-based, community-centered program to empower and assist youth (especially young women) to work against human trafficking.

Mary-Justine Todd, International Studies graduate student from Iowa City, Relief to Development Society in Tanzania. Todd will work to promote grassroots initiation of structural changes in relief and development programs for refugees in order to better serve the needs of women residing in refugee camps, particularly related to gender-based violence.

Lyndsey Wilkinson, first-year medical student from Bettendorf, Love and Mercy Coalition in Tanzania. Wilkinson will work in a clinic operated by the faith-based organization providing health care, including intensive HIV and malnourishment programs. Wilkinson also will work in conjunction with the Coalition and the Women's Dignity Project to provide free fistula repair services, as well as clinical services at a local hospital and orphanage.

Asmita, junior economics major from India, the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva. Asmita will be collecting information on child labor research and education worldwide and writing a report on her findings, as well as assisting with long-distance administration of ILO field projects in Kenya and Ghana.

One student was awarded $1,300 to complete an internship in the United States:

Jacob Wedemeyer, second-year law student from North Liberty, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA) in Eagle Pass, Texas. Wedemeyer will work with TRLA to provide direct legal services to the low-income Spanish-speaking community, including immigration, employment, public benefits, consumer issues and water access, as well as tribal administration work. In particular, TRLA undertakes work in the areas of temporary worker visas and human trafficking.

Eighteen students submitted applications for the internships program. "The students were required to have obtained an internship with a human rights organization prior to applying for funding," Weismann explained. The students also had to 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.

Eligibility guidelines and application deadlines for summer 2007 internships will be announced in the fall. For more information, call or e-mail the UICHR, 319-335-3900 or The center is developing a resource library that will provide interested students with information about human rights organizations and available internship opportunities; visit the "internships" section of the Center's Web page:

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

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

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,; Program: Amy Weismann or Liz Crooks, 319-335-3900; Writer: Julia LaBua