The Iowa City Human Rights Commission has chosen UI public affairs master’s student, Jocelyn Williams, as the Kenneth Cmiel Human Rights Award recipient, based on her strong commitment to housing as a human right. She accepted the award on Oct. 26th at a ceremony held at the Vue Rooftop.
Williams was nominated for the award by her internship supervisor, Simon Andrew, Executive Director of The Housing Fellowship (THF) in Iowa City. Williams’ interest in completing an internship with the nonprofit centered around her belief that housing is a human right and her desire to advance equity. According to Andrew, “Ms. Williams’ skills in research, written communication, and distilling complicated information in a way that is actionable was very helpful to Fellowship. Her varied interests within the realm of supporting a more inclusive and just community were beneficial in that the Fellowship is pursuing a number of partnerships and projects in the conceptual phase; her ability to shift between topics and provide useful assessments of potential next steps in furthering our organization’s mission was both timely and needed.”
Working closely with THF’s executive director allowed Williams to gain insight into nonprofit leadership and to meet a number of community advocates and leaders by being included at meetings and events. As time progressed throughout the internship, she developed a better understanding of the systems and rules in place to incentivize, fund, and create affordable housing. “Once I fully understood this concept it was exciting to put my knowledge into practice and walk through the incentives, funding, and partnerships that all took place” to create a project and grant proposal.
Additionally, Williams received funding for her internship from the Kenneth J. Cmiel Internship Funding program, offered through the UI Center for Human Rights. The program is open to students with summer internships at “a local, national or international non-governmental organization or governmental agency engaged in human rights related advocacy, research or education.” Working for a nonprofit organization with limited funds, she especially appreciated this support.
Originally from Burlington, Iowa, Williams future plans include staying in the east central part of the state to contribute to improving social service systems via advancing equity with a local government or community focused nonprofit. She says, “I’ve really enjoyed immersing myself in the large-scale picture of affordable housing in Iowa City. The system itself is so intricate that it requires genuine thought and organization to be most effective. I hope to do more conceptual and big-ideas type of work as a young professional. Being able to analyze a social service system and make data-based recommendations to improve the system would be a fulfilling job for me!”