STEP Project Reflection

Henry Wu

STEP Project Reflection Research/Internship

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

I worked at Free the Slaves, an international NGO, as a research intern for my STEP Signature Project. Free the Slaves focuses on the issue of human trafficking through direct interventions in countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. The primary objective of my project was to support FTS’s global anti-trafficking operations and conduct research of existing anti-trafficking efforts. I worked with operations and research professionals at FTS. In this role, I conducted data analysis using social science research techniques to identify patterns and prevalence rates for human trafficking.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

My understanding of human trafficking changed dramatically. Specifically, I was unaware of the extent to which human trafficking exists as well as what we don’t know about human trafficking. From children forced into the fishing industry in Ghana to women trafficked into commercial sex in Bangladesh, human trafficking occurs in almost every region of the world. In each country, there are different forms of human trafficking including forced labor, sex trafficking, forced begging, forced marriage, debt bondage and domestic servitude. This was something I was not aware of previously, and has shaped my view of the world.

Most importantly, I found the need for governmental institutions and strengthening the rule of law to be crucial for protecting human rights. In completing my STEP Signature Project, I identified potential interventions to reduce the prevalence of slavery. Often, the key factor was strengthening local rule of law, which may include training police officers, educating citizens about their rights, and assisting law enforcement with the prosecution of traffickers. This has influenced my own career goals as well and fits with my goal of attending law school.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

In researching human trafficking, I created comprehensive country reports and utilized data analytics to visualize the problem. Social science research involves reading, collecting data, analyzing data, and writing. However, one of the key activities that led to the transformative changes in #2 was visualizing and presenting my research. Specifically, I was able to create data visualizations and infographics that allowed one to easily comprehend the research that was being conducted. In one particular example, I looked into the relationship between counterfeit goods production and human trafficking. By visualizing the problem, I was able to obtain a comprehensive understanding of what was going on.

This project was intellectually challenging in many ways. First, I applied what I have learned in my courses to creating reports and presentable documents. I engaged in accurate research that has the potential of affecting the lives of individuals who are trafficked. Additionally, this has challenged me to get accustomed to the culture of FTS and take on difficult and new tasks. This was especially intellectual challenging because the scope of this project will be greater than anything I have done for class.

Finally, I was challenged by networking with nonprofit leaders as well as legal advocates in the anti-trafficking field. One example of an event I was able to attend was a Congressional Panel on Trafficking and Mental Health. In this event, I was able to hear from doctors, healthcare providers, trafficking survivors, and other individuals working on anti-trafficking issues.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

My goals are two-fold. In the short term, I would like to learn more about human trafficking and other human rights issues. I will build upon the knowledge I gain over this summer to effectively write an interdisciplinary senior thesis in philosophy and political science. Second, my long-term goal is to have a career in human rights law. This change has clarified my specific interests in human rights and the law. Through professional networking as well as the research that I did, I was able to more clearly define my future career plans.