An Alumna at the Helm of a New Transatlantic Initiative

M.A. in Political Science, European Union Policy Studies
Katie HSI

Katherine Liggett (fourth from the right) at the EUPS 10th Anniversary Celebration in 2017

By Prof. Caterina Paolucci 

The role of alumni within the European Union Policy Studies (EUPS) community has always been important. After graduation, EUPS alumni often grow a desire to give back to the program through career advising or specific mentoring activities, such as resume revision and job interview advice. There are several alumni who have been in touch with the program’s leadership and successive cohorts over the course of many years now. Recently, Katherine Liggett has joined this active club of alumni who are indomitable supporters of the program.

Currently, Katherine is an analyst at the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).The HRVWCC works to ensure individuals who commit crimes against humanity cannot seek haven in the United States. This requires the knowledge and expertise from a wide range of special agents, attorneys, criminal analysts, and historians to investigate, prosecute and, whenever possible, remove any such offenders from the United States. This is crucial to the U.S. objective to prevent mass atrocities and to hold accountable those perpetrators responsible for genocide and other gross human rights violations.

The HRVWCC develops strong relations with universities, researchers and graduate students by engaging them in research internships with DHS. When Katherine came up with the proposal for several DHS research internships for EUPS students in the spring of 2021, I knew this was a great fit for the EUPS program. Due to the pandemic, most internships for this year’s cohort became remote, creating the perfect opportunity to begin thinking about the possibility to engage EUPS students in a Washington D.C. based internship. In the past, this was always deemed impossible because of the distant nature of the experience. Now that most interns and many employees worldwide are working remotely, meaningful experiences are not necessarily only those in person. It became possible to think of U.S. interns working remotely, and productively, even from Italy. It would not make any difference if somebody was working remotely for a U.S. or an Italian office. In February 2021, the EUPS program and the HRVWCC signed an agreement making a number of remote research positions available to EUPS student interns.

Moving forward, the idea of the EUPS leadership is to pursue a double track internship approach: EUPS students will have the option to do an internship in person in Florence, or a remote internship with the HRVWCC (or potentially with other U.S.-based organizations). This will maximize choices for the students, based on their personal interests, inclinations and career objectives.

The first round of JMU internships with the HRVWCC will conclude this year on June 8, 2021. Four EUPS interns, Lily Gates, Kathleen Van Deusen, Marisa Michak and Morgan Raymond are currently working remotely with the center, helping the research and historical reconstruction of still unclear crimes that happened in the Balkans during the breakdown of Yugoslavia. Although topics this year are focused on human rights violations that have been perpetrated in the Balkans, other geographical areas are going to be available in the future as well.

HRVWCC advisors are highly invested in the success of the research of their student interns. Students were given topics on a specific event or group to investigate where human rights violations occurred during the Kosovo War in 1999. HRVWCC advisors hold weekly meetings with the students to discuss any questions or concerns around their individual research. The students have been constantly guided through the process of researching and writing, from finding sources, to producing an annotated bibliography and a preliminary outline, to then structuring the paper and discussing findings as they emerged. Finally, students will have the opportunity to present their research to the HRVWCC Balkans Regional Team. Another valuable aspect of the internship is the opportunity to hear about potential careers in the Department of Homeland Security. Katherine has invited numerous special agents within DHS to offer advice and answer students’ questions related to their experiences as agents. 

The skills that are being developed by JMU students through this valuable professional opportunity are the following:

  • Research skills: ability to find sources, compile a thorough  and consistent annotated bibliography, use the relevant info for the research project assigned;
  • Analytical skills: ability to identify the right mix of analytic lenses relevant to these projects’ human rights concerns in transitional justice;
  • Writing skills: ability to summarize, analyze and critically assess the materials and draft a paper consistent with the requests and expectations of the internship provider;
  • Communication skills: ability and responsibility to stay in touch with advisors and timely communicate any issues, discoveries, or problems. Integration of the advice in the written work;
  • Presentation skills: capacity to deliver a concise and comprehensive presentation of the research to stakeholders, taking into account the implications of online communication. Ability to interact productively in the Q&A and professionally answer questions.

All of these skills, which EUPS students have developed in the course of the last 9 months, will be fine-tuned in this new, exciting and career orientated experience. Thank you, Katherine Liggett, for all your work to make this happen and to give back to the program, of which you are now such a fantastic mentor!

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Published: Thursday, May 20, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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