I am currently at the midway point in my internship at The Chicago Innocence Center and I could not be more thrilled to be part of such an incredible organization. I have loved working with CIC over the past seven weeks. I am mostly working with twelve other interns, our Director, Pamela, our President, David, our Program Associate, Diana, and our Outreach Coordinator, Stanley, who was wrongfully convicted and served 31 years in prison. I have learned so much working with this group. Our interns come from ten different colleges and represent a range of majors, extra-curricular activities, hometowns, backgrounds, and interests. As interns, we work together on many tasks. Because of our diverse backgrounds, we are able to build off each other’s previous knowledge. One intern who is pre-law could help explain a court proceeding while an intern majoring in journalism could write an op-ed about that proceeding that another intern interested in human rights could turn into a policy brief.
It is really powerful to work with so many engaged individuals who are all at the same points in their life as I am. I feel that I have not just fostered positive workplace relationships but that I have also made lifelong friends. I appreciate the collaborative, open atmosphere at CIC because the subject matter we deal with is very serious. Sometimes, concepts are hard to process because they are so evident of systematic issues such as racism, poverty, or misconduct in the criminal justice system. Luckily, our group can dialogue about these issues, discussing why they are so shocking (or not very shocking, in many unfortunate cases) and what we can do to change them. Overall, I feel excited to be a part of this work.
Working at CIC differs from academic life in two main ways. First, I feel that I am treated as an equal in meetings rather than a student in the classroom. Many of my professors at Brandeis create positive learning environments where I feel comfortable, however I still feel they are my teachers and it is their job to lecture and mine to listen and engage. In contrast, Pam and David cultivate an environment of collaborative learning. There are no lectures; every meeting is a conversation. While Pam and David are our mentors, they value our contributions and encourage us to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Pam and David treat me as their colleague and welcome all ideas, no matter if they are useful or not. I feel respected and I know my opinion is always encouraged.
Second, my internship is much more experiential than my academic experience. Every day, I do something new. My week can be five days in five different locations. One day I am in the office, the next day I am at the book launch of Exoneree Diaries, an incredible book by Alison Flowers, the next day I attend a legal luncheon, the next day I am out in the field, and the next I am attending an evidentiary hearing for one of our investigative cases. Through these unique opportunities in my internship, I am gaining tangible skills to bring back to school or to future job opportunities. My writing has absolutely improved through our investigative journalism workshops, which challenge me to ask succinct questions and not to bury the lead. I have learned how to build a website, which is useful for any job in the future that may need technical support. Finally, I think I have become a more empathetic listener. I am able to silence my thoughts in order to yield the floor to someone else. As they speak, I have learned to truly listen. These skills will translate to my academic life and career for years to come, all thanks to CIC.
Ruby Macsai-Goren, ’18
Social Justice WOW Fellow