For my Social Science Scholar project, I interned with The Avery Center, a nonprofit based in Northern Colorado with a focus on providing exiting services and economic empowerment for survivors of sex trafficking. I partnered with Professor Bruce Manciagli for my internship and focused on foundational principles of social innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as partnering with The Avery Center’s co-founder, Dr. Angie Henderson.
The original focus of the project was to build a new fellowship program for survivors of trafficking interested in learning research skills, as well as to conduct research myself. During the first couple weeks of my internship, I spent time getting to know the staff at The Avery Center and learning more about their job program, which I hoped to scaffold the fellowship program from. After hearing from the staff, it was clear that the pandemic had negatively impacted their programming and the financial sustainability of their job program. It was a difficult choice, but I ultimately decided to shift my focus to helping the organization recover from the crisis and build sustainability.
For the remainder of my time in Colorado, I worked with staff at The Avery Center to help infuse principles of social innovation into the organization’s culture. Some of the tasks were pragmatic in nature, such as implementing a cloud-based storage solution to increase information sharing and internal communications. Other tasks were more visionary and innovative, such as helping to share a digital outreach program and assisting with project management in recording digital outreach ads. It was even more exciting when I was able to help secure partnerships and grant donations to help the job program transition to a hybrid in-person and remote model, that increased opportunities for survivors who come to The Avery Center seeking economic empowerment.
The most impactful part of my time with The Avery Center was the new relationships I gained and the investment I was able to make in existing relationships. Throughout the internship, I was able to professionally mentor two young staff members. My weekly meetings with these two individuals gave me the opportunity to share my experience with working in the nonprofit sector and stress the importance of self-advocacy and direct communication in professional relationships. It was also beneficial to receive one-on-one mentoring from both Professor Manciagli and Dr. Angie Henderson. Each mentor challenged me to think in new ways, supported me in my decisions, and encouraged me in my pursuits.
The Social Science Scholar program gave me the opportunity to take leadership skills and social innovation and entrepreneurship principles and apply them immediately to a project. I have worked in the nonprofit sector for most of my career and have often been tasked with executing projects and building programs based on other people’s visions. This summer, I was able to partner with an organization to implement my own vision, experience the complexity of my vision not aligning with the realities within an organization, and gain skills on how to adapt and pivot, while still holding onto the intention of my vision.
Jamie is a first-generation student from Jacksonville and a junior majoring in interdisciplinary social science. She has worked and volunteered in various capacities within the nonprofit sector for several years. In the future, she hopes to enter a master’s program in sociology and continue to influence public policy and research.