Advocacy beyond Campus
November 25, 2019
Making the connection between an undergraduate research project and a pre-law internship at a nonprofit legal organization may be a challenge for some, but for economics major Diana Treviño ’20, the two fit together seamlessly. In both cases, she has had to be resourceful in finding information, she has needed to analyze the information she finds and figure out what is or is not important, and she has needed to synthesize what she finds to communicate coherently in writing and in person to her supervisors. “I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors in both settings who have provided me guidance but also allowed me to be independent and accomplish tasks on my own,” says Trevino.
Treviño spent the summer between her junior and senior year participating in SCOPE, a student–faculty collaborative summer research program. Mentored by Assistant Professor of Business Hazel Nguyen, Treviño analyzed the language used by chief executive officers (CEOs) in annual letters to shareholders to study the differences in female and male language and communication styles with. The findings of their ongoing project contribute to research that suggests that firms with female CEOs earn higher profits, generate higher abnormal returns (i.e., generate unexpected profits), have lower leverage (i.e., don’t have to borrow as much money), produce less volatile earnings, and have a higher chance of survival than firms run by male CEOs. In other words, their project shows that female leadership contributes to a firm’s overall cultural diversity as well as good governance and management practices.
This fall semester, Treviño interned at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), a nonprofit agency that provides free legal services to low-income Texans. While the two high-impact experiences may look different from the outside, Treviño found parallels in both the work she was doing and the learning she gained from each experience. “On both projects and in both settings, it has been important to ask questions,” she says. “SCOPE built my confidence that I could both figure out things on my own and that it was OK to ask questions when I didn’t know the next step.”she said.
Treviño’s work with the immigration law team at TRLA has enabled her to to experience what it looks like to be a lawyer on a day-to-day basis. But it has also allowed her to manifest her passion for social justice in a professional setting. As a student, she has actively been involved in student organizations on campus such as the Coalition for Diversity and Social Justice and HALO (Hispanics and Latinx Organization). Her work assisting the TRLA immigration law team has given her the opportunity to take her interest in advocacy beyond Southwestern’s campus.
As a pre-law intern, Treviño conducts interviews over the phone in order to type up witness affidavits. She also gathers background research about country conditions—that is, the general condition, state of human rights, and major events of a country—and political situations that are then compiled as an index for the judge who reviews the case. “It’s really similar to putting an annotated bibliography together, and I’ve been able to use some of the same research journals I do as a SU student to find relevant articles,” says Treviño.
Her internship supervisor at TRLA, lawyer Abby Anna Batko-Taylor, shares that having Treviño as an intern has been an asset to her ability to help her clients. “There are so many details with each case, and it is incredibly helpful to have someone so competent and smart who can handle specific aspects and I trust will do a great job,” she comments “Diana definitely has the skills to do this job well.”
Treviño is ultimately interested in going to law school so that she can work alongside the lawyers she is currently assisting in advocating and helping those in need. “Being in this setting and getting to experience the work environment make the goal of law school and doing this work feel more attainable,” she reflects. “I went to a health-professions high school that focused on pre-med and STEM, [so] didn’t get exposure to what it is like to be a lawyer. This internship gives me confidence that I have the skills to do this work. You see that the lawyers here are just real people who are approachable and willing to help, which is very encouraging.”
As Southwestern University seeks to provide these life-changing experiences to all students, we invite you to make a gift to the High-Impact Experience Fund. High-impact experiences are defined as internships, student–faculty research and creative works, study abroad, and community-engaged learning experiences. If you have questions or want to make your gift today, please call 512.863.1211, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit southwestern.edu/makeagift.