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Ready for Her Next Adventure, Lander University’s Avila-Cabrera Heads to Washington, D.C.

Citlali Avila-CabreraFor senior political science major Citlali Avila-Cabrera, spending a semester in Washington, D.C., was not a hard decision. Where she would complete an internship, however, proved to be a difficult choice.

Earlier this year, Avila-Cabrera was accepted into the South Carolina Washington Semester Program, provided through a partnership with the University of South Carolina Honors College. In the process, she also landed two exciting internship offers while in the nation’s capital: one with Congressman James Clyburn, and one with the Organization of American States (OAS).

“Ultimately, I decided to go with OAS because of my interest in comparative politics,” Avila-Cabrera said, adding that it complimented her current academic work at Lander. “I actually conducted research regarding several OAS countries this past year.”

The Organization of American States is one of the world’s oldest regional intergovernmental organizations. Membership is comprised of countries throughout North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Many of Avila-Cabrera’s fellow interns at OAS will be students from outside the United States. “Having the opportunity to be in an internship alongside people from other countries is something that appealed to me about the OAS,” she said.

While there, Avila-Cabrera will be working within the Department of Effective Management, and specifically on the Universal Civil Identity Program in the Americas (PUICA). According to OAS, around ten percent of births in the Caribbean and Latin America go unrecorded. This lack of civil identity makes accessing government services difficult for these individuals throughout their life, in addition to exercising rights afforded to them in their home countries. PUICA works to promote the strengthening of policies, public institutions and legislation that help make civil identity more accessible in member countries.

Avila-Cabrera credits her classes in public administration and international politics for sparking her interest in this internship. The semester in D.C. will also satisfy Avila-Cabrera’s breakaway requirement for Lander’s Honors College. In fact, her first trip to D.C. was part of the Honors College’s travel lab, which is designed as a stepping stone towards a student’s eventual semester- or summer-long breakaway experience.

“The class itself helped me learn how to travel alone,” Avila-Cabrera said, “but the trip that we took to D.C. gave me confidence in my ability to navigate a big city like D.C.”

And while her political science courses prepared her academically for her semester in Washington, Avila-Cabrera says it was joining the Honors College that encouraged her to explore options like a semester abroad or in D.C., which she would not have otherwise considered. Meanwhile on campus, Avila-Cabrera has grown to be one of the University’s most active students. She’s served as a tutor in the Student Success Center and as a presidential ambassador for the Office of Admissions, and she’s a member of the Political Science Association and the Honors College Leadership Council. Her participation in the Washington Semester Program is just the latest in her exciting travel opportunities. This summer, she was one of six students who participated in the “Rhetorical Recreation” study tour with Professor of English Dr. Sean Barnette, which included a rim-to-river hike of the Grand Canyon.

With such an impressive resumé, her professors have no wonder why Avila-Cabrera was named the 2023 recipient of the Duke Energy Scholarship—an award that will help fund her participation in the Washington Semester Program. Avila-Cabrera is the first-ever Lander student to receive this scholarship.

“Cici benefits any classroom because of her intellectual drive and engagement with topics and big questions,” said Dr. Lucas McMillan, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. “Professors know that her presence and passion add much to a course and its active learning exercises.  Like other star students, Cici uses her skills as a peer tutor and campus leader.  The OAS internship opens up doors for Cici’s bright future.”

But these plans weren’t always in the cards for Avila-Cabrera, and she says she’s grateful to Lander University for the personal and career development opportunities that studying at Lander afford her. “When I started college, my only goal was to graduate,” she said. “I never would have imagined the opportunities that I have had during my time at Lander.”