Paterno Fellow helps survivors of gender-based violence through internship

Michaela Harpster
October 01, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The age of Zoom classes and meetings has taught many students about the difficulties of working in different time zones. This is especially true for Paterno Fellow Stacy Brehman who had to work around a seven-hour time difference between her internship site and her hometown. This summer, the international politics major interned remotely for MOSAIC, a gender-based violence Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Cape Town, South Africa.

MOSAIC provides psychosocial services to survivors of any form of gender-based violence. The NGO also advocates and provides legal aid for survivors. 

Brehman had originally planned on completing her internship in Cape Town, but COVID-19 made travel impossible. Working remotely on a different continent presented several difficulties. Brehman noted time management and a lack of in-person connections with her coworkers as a couple of examples. However, what really made things difficult was the time difference.

“Cape Town is seven hours ahead of Minnesota, so communication and feedback was very slow,” Brehman said. “I would have to get up for 4 a.m. meetings, or they would have to respond to emails at midnight their time.”

However, despite the hurdles she faced, Brehman said she still was able to have a worthwhile experience completing important work. Her main focus was on education and awareness of gender-based violence.

“I did a lot of open-source qualitative research into gender-based violence and created manuals and toolkits that social workers could use during the workshops that they provide to different demographics of the community (women, youth, and men),” she said.

She also worked on developing an online counseling program. To do this, she was tasked with selecting the right communications software, writing up guides on how to properly use the online program, and creating consent forms.

Brehman noted that her liberal arts education provided her with the tools and skills needed to succeed professionally. 

“My liberal arts experience has shaped my academic and professional understanding on solving problems in the world,” she said. “The writing skills that I have worked on throughout my time in the College of the Liberal Arts have helped me in academic courses but also with different types of writing that I had to conduct for this internship.”

The Paterno Fellows Program also impacted Brehman’s experience. She explained that the program encourages students to look beyond themselves and pursue challenging and enriching opportunities. This mindset has influenced her to seek opportunities in adversity.

Inspired by the work she conducted for MOSAIC, Brehman said she now plans to apply to domestic and international NGOs, specifically those that work on issues affecting women. Eventually, she aspires to become a foreign services officer through the U.S. Department of State to enact human rights policy on a macro level. 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 05, 2020