News Item

Washington internship provides Lander's Kim Modica with unique learning opportunities

January 21, 2016

Kimberly Modica, a political science major in Lander University’s Honors College, completed an internship last fall that took her to the nation’s capital, the White House and the United Nations, and immersed her in a variety of tasks focused on human rights. 

Modica, a senior from Waterloo, was selected for the Washington Semester Internship program, sponsored by the University of South Carolina Honors College, giving qualified students opportunities to work and study in Washington, and earn course credits. She shared a town house on Capitol Hill with several other interns, including fellow Lander student Megan Hughes, of Anderson, a senior majoring in sociology with a criminal justice emphasis. Hughes completed an internship at the Justice Department.

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Modica accepted an invitation to intern with Human Rights Watch (HRW), the private, nonprofit organization that is an advocate for human rights and justice worldwide. Modica helped run the Washington office, conducted research for several HRW divisions and was responsible for event planning.

One of the events took her to New York City to arrange a conference sponsored by the U.N.’s Human Rights Office and focused on promoting greater respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Modica said, “The pressure of planning the event was intimidating, but the day went perfectly.”

Thanks to her HRW supervisor, she was also invited to the White House, where she attended a Rose Garden reception for Pope Francis, when he arrived to meet with President Barack Obama on the pontiff’s first visit to the U.S. She said, “I was honored to be a part of such a historical event, to see the pope on American soil.”

Modica described the internship as a perfect match because of her interest in human rights, especially those related to LGBT issues. She is not a stranger to that topic, having been adopted and raised by two gay women and witnessing firsthand the difficulties they encountered. She said the research she conducted for HRW gave her new perspectives on a subject about which she is very passionate. “It was a learning experience and it inspired me to work harder in that area.”

She characterized the internship as a personal growth experience that taught her she can be productive in a work environment. And, she found the months she spent in Washington to be culturally enriching because of the city’s many museums and historical places.  

In addition to her studies at Lander, Modica will attend the spring session of the S.C. Student Legislature. When she attended the 2014 session, her fellow students elected her Speaker of the House of Representatives. Earlier, she spent a semester at the University of Winchester in England as part of Lander’s Study Abroad program.

Dr. Lucas McMillan, associate professor of political science and chair of Lander’s Department of Political and Social Sciences, describes Modica as having distinguished herself as a serious scholar and student leader, on campus and beyond. He added, “I have enjoyed watching Kim find her own voice as an advocate and critical thinker, and I believe she has many opportunities ahead of her.”

Honors College Director and Associate Professor of English Dr. Lillian Craton said, “We are beyond proud of Kim and her work for Human Rights Watch. Knowing Kim’s talents, it doesn’t surprise me that she so quickly earned the confidence of her HRW colleagues and was given such important responsibilities.”

Modica is scheduled to graduate this spring and, when she does, she will become the first member of her family to obtain a college degree. She plans to continue her education with the goal of obtaining a law degree, specializing in human rights.