From the end of May to the beginning of August, Rebekah Amaya, junior, majoring in Law and Public Policy through the O’Neil School and minoring in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, worked remotely as an Indiana University Foundation (IUF) intern for the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA).
As a first-generation, low-income college student, Amaya’s interest in diversity work began in high school, when she saw college as something that wasn’t the most attainable. However, Amaya was involved in a number of protests, specifically protests that revolved around the repelling of DACA and March for Our Lives. Additionally, her involvement with Upward Bound, a program for first-generation, low-income high school students going to college, cemented her desire for diversity work.
“That’s when I realized the importance of creating opportunities that help bridge the gap and create equity with students going to college who might not have the same privileges, opportunities, or economic resources to succeed,” Amaya said. This carried over into college, where Amaya says the same types of efforts that helped her get to college were still needed once a person was at college. During her college career, Amaya worked in the Diversity and Inclusion office in the O’Neil School of Public & Environmental and as the president of Students for Equity and Public Affairs.
“The majority of the work that I want to focus on in the future is making sure spaces are equitable,” Amaya said. “That they are diverse and inclusive of diverse bodies. That’s just what I am really passionate about.”
Amaya did not seek out the IU Foundation internship herself but was contacted over LinkedIn by Shannen Wisniewski, a recruiting coordinator at the IU Foundation, who saw that Amaya’s resume and diversity work seemed to lend itself well to working as an IUF intern for OVPDEMA.
Originally an in-person internship, working as an IUF intern and in a was a new experience for Amaya, who had never had a virtual internship or worked in a non-profit organization before. Thankfully, as part of her internship, Amaya and the other interns attended educational sessions where they learned the ins and outs of the IU Foundation and how the foundation functions. Additionally, Amaya worked with a variety of interns in a group environment as well as individual work which was relevant to her interests.
“A lot of the work that I did this summer was focused on the Latinx community and targeting alumni from the Latinx community and figuring out the best ways to engage Latinx alumni and also engage with IUF,” Amaya said. “What I really liked about this internship was how attentive my supervisors were. They were really hands-on from the get-go and were very open to making this experience about what I wanted to learn and what I wanted to get out of it.”
In this position, Amaya faced challenges she hadn’t encountered before, such as balancing professionalism and activism.
“I was really deeply connected with the George Floyd protests and all the things that were happening because it intersected so much with diversity work,” Amaya said. “The most challenging part was balancing all those things, figuring out how to navigate the professional realm remotely and dealing with all these external factors that overlap and influence your work.”
Amaya’s biggest accomplishment during her time as an IUF intern was her Capstone project, where she gathered external data, connected with and interviewed multiple Latinx alumni members, and built an engagement plan designed for Latinx alumni.
“The Capstone Project, taking the goals and values of OVPDEMA and combining them with IUF’s to create something of your own to fill a need that you’re interested in and see,” Amaya said. “It’s not often that I feel like I can talk to alumni, let alone alumni that I feel represented by or that I can share experiences with. So talking with them and learning about their experiences as undergrads at IU and realizing the amount of work that they put in that lead to a lot of programs, organizations, and initiatives that influenced me directly. Getting to know them and attach that face to what benefits me as a student and being able to thank them directly was really cool.”
At the end of her internship, Amaya walks away with new experiences under her belt and more passion than ever.
“What’s unique about the OVPDEMA internship is that I think any intern that comes into OVPDEMA will have a different experience just because it’s guided by whatever their interests are and what they want to work on with the advice of their supervisors,” Amaya said. “It will always be focused on what your interested in in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”