I’ll start this by apologizing for my shameless use of Instagram photos.
Interning in the Youth and Campus Outreach department at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT advocacy organization in the country, has been a great delve into the 40-hour work week of adulthood (albeit without the paycheck).
I’ve spent most of my time so far working on one big project, which is marketing our internship program (which you should check out!). The HRC has 30 brilliant, passionate interns that do a significant portion of the work here, and my job is to help keep a steady, diverse stream of applicants coming in for the fall semester and to create a fast, easy-to-follow marketing plan that future Youth and Campus Outreach interns can follow.
It’s a great way to combine my coursework as an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) student with my passion for LGBT advocacy. Thanks to teachers like Gerry Chiaro and Lori Erikson Copple, I know how to identify the problems and opportunities in marketing strategy and create plans of attack for them. The cool part of a real-world internship is that I get to take the next step and actually implement the strategy. This currently involves identifying LGBT resource centers, campus groups and university semester DC programs (which takes a lot of research and time) and emailing/Facebooking all of them, asking to send our information to their students. It can get tedious, but it is really exciting to see results. My next steps involve reaching out to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and diverse campus groups to increase the diversity of applicants. Equality affects all of us, and it is important to have diverse representation in the LGBT movement.
The HRC provides us with a lot of awesome educational opportunities, such as getting to spend an hour talking to Chad Griffin, the HRC’s president and the man who orchestrated bringing Prop 8 to the Supreme Court. We also had a Q&A with Natalie Sade, the head of the Aguda, Israel’s HRC equivalent, and I had the opportunity of attending a lunch speaker series at the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, with Mara Keisling, the founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). Each of these speakers gave insight into the equality movement, where we stand and where we have to go from here.
I was also fortunate enough to lobby congress with NCTE and the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and LGBT inclusion in Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This was definitely one of the toughest, most educational and worthwhile experiences I’ve had in DC. Alongside three other Arkansans, I spoke to staff members from Senators John Boozman and Mark Pryor as well as Congressman Tim Griffin himself.
Lobbying was somewhat discouraging at times; my congressmen and their districts are generally very socially conservative, which doesn’t help when lobbying for LGBT equality. At some points, it felt like I wasn’t being heard at all. However, there were also moments where I felt like they were truly listening to me, and that was empowering. As awful and foreign as our political process can be, I felt, for once, that I was actually playing some small role in it.
Certainly the most exciting part of working for the HRC was the Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8 on June 26th. I got to stand at the front of the Supreme Court when the decisions were made, which was one of the most emotional and powerful moments of my life. I was watching history while working for an organization that played a major part in it. The eruptions of the crowd, tearful and joyous hugs from friends and the feeling in my heart that things are getting better for me and all LGBT people – it was a powerful moment in civil rights history. I can’t believe I was lucky enough to experience it firsthand.
These first few weeks of interning for the HRC have energized me like no other. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by pre-professionalism and career goals as a college student, but working for an organization that stands for something I care about so much has sent me veering off the road I once planned on taking.
I love going to work, even if intern tasks sometimes get monotonous and staring at a computer screen for seven hours gives me a neck ache. I care about what I am doing, the organization I am working for and the people I am working with – and I’m willing to take a pay cut from what I once thought I would be doing to enter the world of nonprofits and LGBT advocacy. I hear echoes of all the people in my life who have told me that you’ve got to love your job more than you love the money. I think I’m going to take that advice.
Brennan is a rising senior at Northwestern studying Psychology, Theatre and Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). You can follow his internship adventures on his blog, www.botheyesonthesuen.wordpress.com.
This has been uploaded to Northwestern’s EPICS Internship Blog.