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Intern Spotlight Series: Hillary Shah

Hillary Shah joined the Office of Civil Rights this summer as an intern. In this Q&A, Hillary shares why she joined our team, what she's been working on, and what she'll take away from her time with us.

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Can you share a little bit about yourself and why you chose the U.S. Department of Commerce for your internship?

My name is Hillary Shah and I'm a rising senior at the University of North Texas studying political science, economics, and legal studies.  I'm passionate about reinvigorating the American Dream and breaking down political, economic, and social structures prohibiting marginalized communities from reaching their full potential..  In the future I hope to attend law school and serve my community as a civil rights lawyer and public servant.

I was chosen to be a part of a South-Asian focused internship placement program called the Washington Leadership Program and was given the choice of being placed into different Federal agencies or Congressional offices.  I decided on the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Civil Rights because I'm very passionate about civil rights through the lens of socioeconomic and upward mobility, something that the Commerce Department specializes in.

Why did you choose to study political science, economics, and legal studies?

When deciding my areas of study, I knew that my goal was to be able to use them in a public service career to break down institutions and structures that systematically prohibit or limit marginalized communities from reaching their full potential.  I realized that each institution was rooted in three things - law, policy/politics, and economics,  so I decided on making those my main courses of study

What did you expect to work on during this internship before it started?

I had a great conversation with my supervisor Tinisha Agramonte before my internship started about the transitioning of the office and how I could best be of assistance.  Ms. Agramonte advised that since I was passionate about first-generation professionals and emerging professionals like myself, I could help continue the work on the First-Generation Professionals Initiative (FGPI) she launched the year before.

What have you been working on during your internship?

During my internship I have been working on two newly established FGPI initiatives known as the First-Generation Professionals Academy (FGPA) and Emerging Professionals with most of my work centered on coordinating all aspects of the FGPA. We have hosted a series of webinars on professional development topics that have been proven by research to be germane to the success of first-generation, low-income college students as they enter the workplace.  I have also been building on other FGPI goals and initiatives, like building partnerships with other like-minded first-generation organizations, establishing Employee Resources Groups within other Federal government bureaus and organizations, and keeping a Standard Operating Procedures manual for continuity purposes. 

How do you think you’ve helped our team with its work on civil rights?

I believe I have been an integral part of this forward-leaning, groundbreaking Federal government initiative that for the first time, explores the often-overlooked dimension of socioeconomic class and the identity of being the "first".  As such, in my role, I have been able to help expand civil rights beyond the common identifiers to the aspect of socioeconomic class, while directly impacting hundreds of first-generation, low-income students like myself across the country.

Is there anything you wished you could have worked on or learned about, but didn’t get a chance to?

I am midway through a nine week internship program and have been privileged to have learned so much.  For example, I am interested in being a public servant and possibly working in the Federal government.  However, I am unsure which pathway to pursue so my supervisor is assisting me in setting up one on one meetings with Federal employees who are performing work that I might want to do in the future so I can learn more about the process.

What have you learned during this internship that you can apply in the future?

This internship has allowed me to really hone in my writing, people, and professional skills.  I also learned how to execute high-level programs as well as develop initiatives and everything that goes into initiatives that most people don't usually think about.