Zama Coursen-Neff ’93 Discusses Careers in Human Rights

Zama Coursen-Neff speaks to a packed room on Monday afternoon.

Zama Coursen-Neff ’93, Executive Director of the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, gave a talk on careers related to human rights to a group of 39 Davidson students in Union 209 on Monday, September 16.  This session was just one event on a busy schedule for Coursen-Neff, who spent two days at Davidson talking to student groups, classes, and the public about her work.  In this session, she explained her path to her current position and gave advice for those interested in working in human rights or pursuing nonprofit legal work more generally.

Coursen-Neff emphasized that there are many possible paths to pursuing a career in human rights advocacy, and that students should focus on honing their writing and gaining field experience while at Davidson.  She recalled a study abroad trip in Spain her sophomore year and a trip the summer after her junior year to El Salvador (only four months after a war that had left the country shaken up) as two particularly meaningful experiences for her.  She worked in the field right after graduating from Davidson and before attending law school at New York University.  Although she did not love her time at law school and has not worked as an attorney aside from the year she clerked for a federal judge and an extensive pro-bono case she participated in after earning her JD, she told the group that going to law school gave her a valuable perspective.  She also shared work that she did at the U.S.-Mexican border and in Afghanistan, India, and Papua New Guinea.

In addition to sharing her own career story, Coursen-Neff gave the group a few specific pieces of advice.  She recommended cultivating mentors and role models, which were very inspiring to her both personally and professionally.  She also recommended that students simply “get out there and have experiences,” including field work, before deciding on a graduate field of study. She told students,  “If I had created a plan and stuck with it, I never would have seen all the things I didn’t know were out there.”  Most importantly, she said, students should “pursue work that is meaningful and fun.”  She stated that it is important not to martyr oneself for work that is not engaging and to reflect on the kinds of working conditions that will fulfill your needs before jumping into a job.

At least one paid summer internship at the Human Rights Watch headquarters in New York City will be available this summer for a Davidson student. The internship(s) will be funded by the Vann Center for Ethics at Davidson.  More details will be available on WildcatLink later this fall; the application deadline will likely be in early February.  Seniors should also search for Associate positions on the Human Rights Watch website.  These positions, often filled by new graduates of schools like Davidson, typically become available mid-to-late spring semester.

Learn more about Zama Coursen-Neff by reading her bio on the Human Rights Watch website, and stay tuned for information on the summer internship opportunity!

Summer Internship Opens Door to Career Path

By Alexa King, Career Services Ambassador

Joi Spaulding ’14 is an Africana Studies Major, Pre-Medicine from Stamford, Connecticut. She is a Strategies Mentor and member of the Upsilon Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

This past summer Joi Spaulding interned with a non-profit organization called REACH Prep, which prepares highly motivated black and Latino students from low to moderate income families enter independent schools located in Fairfield and Westchester counties, and the Bronx. As an advisor for the “Junior-Girls,” rising 5th graders, her day typically began at 7:45 a.m. with a daily lesson or activity that she prepared, often pertaining to character building.  Proactive and energetic, Joi sought out new tasks and assignments from her advisors, and usually assisted the teachers with science labs and lectures. If any student was struggling with a concept in class, Joi would also provide tutoring for them.

When asked about the most valuable lessons Joi learned through her internship, she alluded to the “art” of working with children. “Regardless of how they behave, you have to give a child a clean slate each day,” Joi said.  In addition, she said that her experience taught her the importance of having a positive impact on children, especially from an early age. She also indicated that she had “no idea how much they looked up to me” and viewed her as a role model. “With children, the little things are really important, whether it’s a fun lesson plan or a basketball game.” They were really enthusiastic about my interest in their success, she said.

This experience was so meaningful to Joi that in the future she wants to work with youth, hopefully in an education or health care related capacity. She found that “it really just takes one person who cares to show a child that she believes in him. That support and care is what can truly make an impact in a child’s life.”

Working in Washington DC: The Ultimate Summer Getaway

By McKenzie Roese, Career Services Ambassador

While summertime is usually my time to kick back, relax, and enjoy a little sunshine by the beach, I decided to resist my normal summer routine: instead, I was going to enter the workforce. This past summer, I ventured away from my Minnesota home to explore our nation’s capital – Washington DC. Being a political science major, I wanted to be thrown into the heart of American politics during such an exciting time in US history: the presidential election season. To get the most out of my DC experience, I applied for the Davidson in Washington program where I took a US foreign policy seminar with a Davidson professor, Dr. Ortmayer, and worked full-time at an organization of my choosing.

Considering marketing and public policy have always been interests of mine, I decided to
work at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) as their only undergraduate marketing and communications intern. CLINIC, a member-based non-profit organization, aims to help provide support to its nationwide affiliates in order to help provide the best legal assistance for low-income immigrants. Because immigration policy is such a diverse field, I worked with a wide-array of people during my time at CLINIC: law students, attorneys, marketing managers, and even accountants. In terms of my work, I performed social media research for immigration-related articles, trends, and legislation. I also created a marketing plan for CLINIC’s upcoming events by designing email-marketing strategies to increase sponsorship.

Working at CLINIC by day and discussing US foreign policy at night, I have to say the Davidson in Washington experience couldn’t have been more rewarding. Not only did I learn about marketing strategy for a nationwide non-profit, but I also lived three blocks away from the White House. Looking back on it, I have to admit having Obama as my neighbor definitely beats sitting by the beach all day long.

Charlotte Area “Know Your Farms” Annual Tour/Volunteer Opportunities!

Know Your Farms has announced its fourth annual Charlotte Area Farm Tour to take place the weekend of September 15-16, 2012. The tour is a great opportunity for you to connect with the local thriving agricultural community.

The tour takes place from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. both days (Saturday and Sunday) and highlights 40+ local farms.   It is self-guided, with farms located in clusters all around the Charlotte region for easy touring.  Learn about those important farm-to-fork connections and discover sources for fresh, healthy food in the greater Charlotte community. Explore possible future opportunities in the local community.

Passes are $30.00 per vehicle, or $25 when you buy in advance, so fill your car with friends and family!

Want to attend for free?  Christy Shi ‘96, Know Your Farms, is looking for volunteers! Get to know a farmer, soak up the countryside., for more information. Any help you can offer is welcomed!

For more information,


Roosevelt Scholars Act Could Give Jobs to Graduates Interested in Public Service

The US government needs talented, educated individuals to perform essential functions. During the next five years, almost one-third of the government’s top scientists, engineers, mathematicians, economists and other specialized professionals will be eligible for retirement,  packing up their desks and moving on to the next stage of their lives. Who will replace them in the job market?

The government will need to hire more than 193,000 new employees. However, the number of applicants needed to replace these federal workers is dwindling.

The Roosevelt Scholars Act is a bill currently circulating Capitol Hill designed to help address this shortage of workers.  Introduced last July by David Price of North Carolina, The Roosevelt Scholars Act seeks to revitalize the government by recruiting the nation’s best and brightest to fill these crucial occupations. By creating an elite scholarship program to fund graduate-level study in exchange for civil commitment, the program seeks to create a new, high-performing workforce dedicated to public service.

Modeled after the military’s ROTC program, the Roosevelt Scholars Act will create a scholarship program for people pursuing degrees in areas of high skill and need, or “mission-critical” areas. It will establish a foundation award for up to $60,000 in tuition per year, for a maximum of five years, for students completing degrees in engineering, medicine and public health, foreign languages, information technology and law.

Scholarship recipients will be required to complete an internship with a federal agency in addition to serving as a federal service ambassador at his or her college or university. Upon graduation, the scholar will then work with a federal government agency for three to five years, depending on the duration of the degree program.

Learn more about the Roosevelt Scholars Act and sign a petition online expressing your support.  Ultimately, the Roosevelt Scholars program would help restore prestige to federal service by raising awareness about federal opportunities and rebranding the government as a place where the best and brightest go to make a difference.

For more information go to Roosevelt Scholars, sign the petition, and encourage your peers and student leaders and faculty to support the Act.

Law Schools With a Commitment to Public Interest

Many students applying to law schools seek programs where they can gain skills and experience to work in the public service – often the government and the nonprofit sectors.

It can be difficult to assess on your own which law schools have a strong commitment to public service.

Fortunately there are two resources you can use to research these programs:

1) Equal Justice Works Guide to Law Schools – An interactive online resource of public service opportunities, curricula and financial programs at more than 150 law schools in the United States.

2) National Jurist Pre-Law News – leading news source for pre-law students.  National Jurist recently graded law schools for their commitment to public interest.

Connect with Nathan Elton, pre-law advisor and Director of Career Services, if you would like to learn more about public interest law!

Are You An Idealist?

Exploring the possibility of doing a summer internship for a nonprofit next year?  If so, be sure to put, at the top of your resource list.

The mission of Idealist is to “connect people, organizations, and resources to help build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives.”

In addition to internships, you can “connect” into information on full-time jobs, volunteer opportunities, fellowships and research information on nonprofits organizations, “around the world.”

Idealist also sponsors a Grad Fair each year in a variety of locations. This year, UNC Chapel Hill is hosting the Idealist Grad Fair in the North Carolina region.  The date is Saturday, November 12, 2011, from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.  If you are interested in pursuing advanced degrees in social services, public policy or international development, plan to attend.  If you are unable to attend the fair on this date, check Idealist for other dates/locations.

Your “Idealist” opportunity is just a click a way.


Are you exploring the possibility of working for a nonprofit? Consider volunteering as one of the first steps to take towards developing your nonprofit career.  It is a great way to serve others and make a difference while developing skills and gaining experience.  Nonprofits like to see a history of volunteerism in a potential employee’s background, especially if you have volunteered for their organization in the past.  Most individuals who work in the nonprofit sector will share that their “first beginnings” were as a volunteer.

Campus Resources
The Center for Civic Engagement has a plethora of programs, grants, resources and service activities you can tap into for volunteering/exploring service-related organizations.  You can also explore student clubs and programs through the Civic Engagement Council.

Career Services offers a variety of workshops and resources on social service & nonprofit opportunities.  Login to WildcatLink for the latest workshops, internship and job listings.  Check out the Social Services & Nonprofits career field page, under the Student section of the Career Services web page, for a broad list of resources and career-related information.

Finding an organization you can support in a volunteer role, can provide a rewarding experience for both you and the local community.   Your service will build a lifetime of skills and “goodwill” for both you and those you have served, whatever career path you choose to take after Davidson.