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FEATURE

Georgetown Student Connects REWA Coursework to Internship with Faith-Based Organizations

October 15, 2020

Carly Kabot (SFS’23) is minoring in the Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs (REWA) program, which offers a minor for Georgetown Main Campus undergraduate students and is administered through the Berkley Center. During summer 2020, Carly worked with faith-based organizations as part of her internship. Berkley Center staff recently sat down with Carly to discuss her internship experience and how it relates to her REWA coursework and broader Georgetown education.

Where did you intern this summer? What type of work did you do?

I interned at West End Strategy Team (WEST) this summer, which is a strategic communications firm that seeks to raise national public awareness, influence policy at all levels, and drive social change. The majority of their clients are nonprofits that work in the progressive policy arena, focusing on issues from human rights to faith-based advocacy. 

I had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of clients on all different types of projects. A key part of what WEST does is media relations and message development, so I learned a lot about writing op-eds, letters to the editor, and press releases. I also had the chance to speak with journalists and pitch article ideas, which was a completely new experience for me. Beyond sharpening my communication skills, I helped create social media strategies, developed content, and assisted with research. By the end of the summer, I had worked on a number of faith-based projects for Faith in Action, Hillel International, HIAS, T’ruah, JCC Association of North America, and more. It was really cool to help strategize how these organizations could respond to the pandemic, as well as racial justice movements across the country. 

What were some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your internship experience? 

Even though the internship was remote, the work was incredibly rewarding. What I loved most about working at WEST was how closely the values of the company were reflected by every member of the team. For a strategic communications and public relations firm, this summer had no shortage of crises. From COVID-19 to Black Lives Matter, we aimed to reframe client messaging to respond to what was happening across the country—and to do so with knowledge, empathy, and respect.

In the beginning of the summer, I had the chance to work on a project for Faith in Action. I was tasked with compiling COVID-19 testing sites, unemployment resources, and food pantries for some of the hardest-hit cities. Even when the work felt monotonous (especially from my own bedroom), I realized how much something as simple as a list of resources can help someone. Aside from adjusting to a remote working environment, nailing down the perfect press release was a challenge. Only getting back a few edits may seem like a tiny win, but I could see how my writing drastically improved. 

How did your Georgetown coursework, especially the REWA minor, shape your experience interning this summer? 

I took Israel and World Politics last semester with Professor Zion Evrony, former ambassador from Israel to the Holy See. We spent some time diving into the relationship between Israel and the Vatican, and the class focused a lot on shared values between both states. 

Working with faith-based non-profits, I now understand how important this is beyond foreign relations. Values, not doctrine, are at the core of their missions. Though faith-based nonprofits may appeal to religious texts or traditions, they do so to bring together groups into their call for action. Their motivation may be founded on religious principles, but the work itself is largely secular. Instead of isolating religious ideals and secular beliefs, faith-based nonprofits are discovering how their power can be bridged together for the common good. 

It was really cool to see this translate into my experience at WEST. Particularly, I found what I had learned especially helpful when working with Faith in Action. Faith in Action is founded on the belief that common values—not common issues—are what glues organizations together. When people are inspired by a vision for a better world instead of anger towards the one that exists, our potential for change is optimized. Rather than only focusing on one issue area, this organization is applying religious teachings to everything from voting rights to mass incarceration. 

What has been your favorite course in the REWA program? 

So far, Israel and World Politics with former Ambassador Zion Evrony has been my favorite course in the REWA program. It was really interesting to see where Israel’s Jewish identity does—and does not—play into its foreign policy. We also got to see history unfold with President Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which was really cool to watch together. We compared the elements of his plan to past proposals and considered how Israel could maintain both its democratic and Jewish character. 

It was also instructive to learn from someone who had worked in diplomacy before, and we even had an online meeting where we got to hear from experts from the UN, EU, the military, and Israeli aid organizations. I’ve always been drawn to Israel because of how important Jerusalem is for so many different faiths and cultures. Understanding how this complex reality affects foreign policymaking and conflict has allowed me to take on a more analytical lens when discussing these themes. 

How does your REWA coursework and internships relate to your broader goals after graduating from Georgetown?

In addition to pursuing a minor in REWA, I am majoring in international politics with a concentration in international security. I aim to find the space where strong national security, respect for human rights, and religious freedom can coexist. As the world’s refugee population continues to grow, demographics across the globe are shifting. I originally became interested in the intersection of religion and international affairs with the rise of populism in Europe at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis. I want to push against the ultra-nationalist sentiments our world is facing—with many of our current issues impossible to solve without international cooperation. Through my REWA coursework, I hope to gain the knowledge needed to create more just laws and policies surrounding religious persecution, immigration, and integration.

To learn more about the Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs minor, please visit the program webpage