This past summer, I had the incredible privilege of interning with the Resource Development team at the Sabin Vaccine Institute. As someone who is passionate about global health equity, I was excited to learn more about what it means to work at non-profit within the global health field. Looking back on my experience, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity at work at Sabin and support its mission to alleviate needless human suffering from vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases.

While the Resource Development team is primarily focused on fundraising, my major responsibilities as an intern aligned with the broader scope of the term “resource development,” namely evaluating, researching and developing resources for the team to support their current and upcoming projects. This involved a lot of different tasks like presentation planning, evaluating applications for student leadership positions with Sabin’s END7 campaign and attending events and conferences in the D.C. area. I enjoyed everything I had the chance to work on, but the three things that stood out as highlights were attending the State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations markups on the Hill, developing a presentation to recruit students at the Millennium Campus Conference and contributing to END7’s social media platforms.

My internship was supported through a fellowship with the Archer Center, a University of Texas System program offering undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to “live, learn and intern” in Washington, D.C. Being on an academic internship meant that I was encouraged not only to immerse myself in the culture of the organization I served with but also to focus on its intersection with policy-based and political processes. Although I’ve been in interested in health policy for the past few years, until this summer, I was not aware that nearly all Congressional meetings are open to the public. Attending all four of the SFOPs appropriations markups (sub- and full committee meetings for the House and the Senate) this summer was a remarkable experience as I was present for each debate and decision regarding funding for Zika. It was a humbling experience to be in the room listening to Representatives and Senators passionately debate on the issue. It’s one thing to hear about laws and budgets passed by Congress in the news or online; it’s another thing entirely to be in the room when that decision is made.

When I wasn’t running around the city attending Hill events, my day-to-day activities at Sabin focused mostly on END7, Sabin’s grassroots neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) advocacy campaign. END7 recruits and trains effective student leaders at universities around the world, encouraging them to become global health leaders in the fight against NTDs. As an undergraduate, I was actively involved with the Academic Peer Advisor program at my university, a student leadership program which fostered holistic academic excellence through peer-to-peer mentoring and tutoring assistance from certified student tutors. Thus, supporting END7 student engagement activities as a Sabin intern was a dream come true: while I studied philosophy and biology in undergrad and completed my master’s thesis on the role of compassion cultivation training in Leogane, Haiti – a country endemic for the NTD lymphatic filariasis – until this summer, I hadn’t been able to combine my love for student engagement and empowerment with my passion for global health. Working with the END7 team allowed me to use the skills I’ve learned as a campus leader and the knowledge I gained from my academic studies in a way that was both useful to the organization and to my own professional development.

In addition to supporting the END7 student engagement program, I had the exciting opportunity to work with the END7 communications team to share the “voice” of END7 through social media. Utilizing social media as a tool for grassroots advocacy is an emerging area of research, one that I’ve seen to be a powerful vehicle for change. Being able to apply the lessons I’ve learned from that research into the “real-world” of social media management has not only given me more confidence in my professional skills but has inspired me to look into incorporating this type of work into my dissertation – neither of which would’ve been possible without the experience I had with Sabin.

Although my time as an intern has ended, I’m grateful for the chance to carry the skills and lessons I’ve learned into the future and consider it an honor to have learned from so many passionate, inspiring people. I could not have asked for a more incredible summer – D.C., I’ll be back soon!

---

Ariel Arguelles is a doctoral candidate in public affairs at The University of Texas at Dallas. She holds two bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and biology from Oral Roberts University and a master’s in global health from the University of Notre Dame. Dedicated to health equity and education, Ariel’s professional and academic background illustrates her interdisciplinary approach to learning all she can about her greatest passion: people.