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Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
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Veronica Joyce

Major: Sociology, Spanish
Minor: Labor and Employment Relations, Sustainability Leadership
Hometown: Stroudsburg, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I run the Student Conduct Advisors at Penn State. In December, I was invited to a conference for students defending student rights. FIRE invited people like me to help them develop a guide to help students at other campuses across the country set up organizations to protect student rights. FIRE protects student/faculty rights across college campuses, and they want students to also be involved in protecting their own rights. There, I learned about their summer internship. It would be a good experience for anyone looking into First Amendment law or protecting the rights of Americans in general.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I learned a lot more than I thought possible. I went into it thinking that I would learn about what FIRE did on a day-to-day basis, but I learned about the whole history of the First Amendment. I also thought that free speech was more or less a conservative issue, but as I learned, it is for everyone, and everyone is for it regardless of politics. I feel more educated on a subject I was not previously, as well as feeling more passionate and ready to protect people's rights in general. I was exposed to law, non-profit work, conference organization, office life, having a 9 to 5 job, living in Philadelphia, writing professionally, collaborating on projects, movie-making, and much more. We had speakers every week, worked on projects with the employees of FIRE, planned and ran a conference, and ate bagels every Thursday.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I think it will help me with future schooling. It is an intense but educational program which I believe will give me a step up with any further education I end up pursuing. It also helped me to figure out that I do not want to go to law school. I saw so many other paths to take this summer and was able to consult with lawyers and law students alike on their thoughts about getting a JD.

Advocacy is a path I am interested in pursuing, so this summer was a good window into how advocacy works in the real world.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I am not sure. I know that I want to work with people and hopefully use my Spanish language skills in the future but I do not yet know how. This program helped me to see the inner workings of a non-profit. Advocacy is a path I am interested in pursuing, so this summer was a good window into how advocacy works in the real world.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes. You do not need to know much about free speech before you get there. I would do the readings they give you to understand FIRE more fully, but it is so much of a learning summer that you do not need to go into it being an expert already. This is great for Liberal Arts students because you can really put your skills to use here. We wrote, debated, learned, and critiqued every day.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

Paterno Fellows helped not only monetarily but also in the preparation for this summer. Philadelphia is not the cheapest place to live, so being able to apply for enrichment funds was crucial to my ability to participate in this program. PFP also helped me feel confident in my ability to show up and be a leader in a new place. I always feel encouraged and supported by PFP and know that I have people to turn to if need be.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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