At Centre College, students regularly undertake internships and engage in mentored research projects on-and-off campus. Seniors Katie Freeman (Sonora, California) and Emily Shields (Florence, Alabama) had the chance to intern in the Title IX office with Sexual Assault Prevention & Education Manager Sarah Cramer this past school year.
Freeman worked as a tertiary prevention intern and Shields was the primary prevention intern.
“Katie’s internship focused on policy communication,” Cramer said. “Katie provided maintenance and a very important preliminary overhaul to our Centrenet website. Thanks to Katie, it features things like a ‘safety exit’ and a user-friendly link. Katie also worked to distill policies in a way that is trauma-informed. When I tell people she made the flow charts you may see hanging in every building on campus, they don’t believe me. To that I say, ‘You must not know Katie Freeman.’
“Emily’s internship focused on programming and partnerships,” she continued. “Emily sought to support existing health education programs, develop new ones and sustain partnerships. For example, Emily was behind regular check-ins and maintenance for the Ampersand Drop-In space, trained resident assistants as peer facilitators, coordinated the Green Dot program, and developed an alcohol skills training workshop. That workshop is currently one of the most effective—and popular—of all of our programs.”
Freeman, a politics major with minors in Spanish and social justice, wanted to do something to help with the College’s focus on sexual misconduct prevention efforts on campus.
“Interning in the Title IX office gave me the chance to learn more about the science of sexual misconduct prevention,” Freeman said. “In looking at problems, especially where social justice is involved, I find myself frustrated when efforts to improve the situation begin at the end result rather than addressing the cause. The work I did in the Title IX office showed me that this is an area that is making real strides to address these problems before something happens. While we’re not there yet, I know that 100 percent of sexual misconduct is preventable, and now I have the tools to contribute to that work. I hope to utilize those skills directly by continuing prevention work now that I’m graduating.”
The opportunity Freeman had working in the Title IX office helped empower her to make lasting change within the community she lived.
“The work I did in that office helped students to communicate with each other about the expectations we have for each other here at Centre and to feel more confident in their knowledge of what would happen if they decided to report that someone was violating those expectations,” she added. “Emily and I were able to contribute in valuable ways to make sure that current issues were brought to light and addressed, bringing the student voice into a conversation that sometimes overlooks feedback from those most affected by it.”
Freeman is undecided about her after Centre plans, but she is hoping to apply the skills she gained from her internship to do prevention work in higher education or be an advocate at a community resource center.
Shields, an anthropology and sociology major with minors in gender studies and social justice, had been involved with Students for Prevention, Education and Advocacy in the Community (SPEAC) since her sophomore year, and had watched their work changing conversations around sexual misconduct. Through this, she knew important conversations were happening, and she wanted to be a part of them.
“I was in the process of looking for social justice/feminist-oriented summer internships when Sarah began to advertise the internship in her office,” Shields said. “I knew right away it was something I wanted to do. By that time, I knew I wanted to go into higher education administration for my future career and that access to education was extremely important to my professional values, and this job combined the two. I was able to make a difference in my community and gain really invaluable professional experience.”
For Shields, having this experience in the Title IX office was truly indescribable.
“Working with Sarah Cramer was truly one of the most professionally and personally enriching experiences of my college career,” she added. “She was a phenomenal mentor and really challenged me in my own beliefs on the issues facing higher education today, and she will remain a lifelong mentor in my higher education career. I also made a lifelong friend in my coworker, Katie, who spent way too many days listening to me chatter away while she worked. It is a time in my life I will always look back on with fondness, even the hard moments. I could not recommend working or volunteering in the office more highly. There is so much that students can do to further the conversations around sexual violence prevention, and the field needs their voices.”
In the fall, Shields will attend Michigan State University to pursue a master’s degree in student affairs administration.
When people walk around campus and see the flow charts designed to help navigate their choices, Cramer said she wants them to know Freeman created them based on industry best practices and standards. If students attend an alcohol skills workshop with their RA—one of the best we have in the box—she also wants them to know Shields made it happen.
“People hear me say ‘100 percent of sexual assaults are preventable, and we all have a role to play in achieving that end’ almost every day,” Cramer said. “An important thing to note is that we can all contribute with the skills we have right now, in this moment. It’s not about who can care the loudest, or who has a certain set of skills—it’s about who will put what they have, right now, to use in a way that meets a need. It has been one of the greatest joys of my career to amplify the contributions and maximize the impact of our student interns. I watched them work through and with an institution to solve big problems that feel impossible to most people.”
When the Title IX Office won the EVERFI Impact Award for campus sexual violence prevention, Cramer said Freeman and Shields projected a slide describing how involved Centre students are, and her favorite part of that memory is that Freeman was sitting next to her at a conference for professionals.
“I once sent Emily to a meeting with a community partner unaccompanied,” she added. “A colleague asked me, ‘Are you sure?’ and I said ‘Absolutely.’
“It is no exaggeration to say Emily and Katie have created resources that we will update and use for as long as Centre has students,” she continued. “It is no exaggeration to say that when Centre continues to take steps forward in the future, the path will lead back to work Emily and Katie did.”
And in the process of doing excellent work, both students built a program that was started by Eden Gebeyehu ’19. Cramer is confident that strong students will continue to work hard to fill their shoes, because they’re already stepping up to “ask about applying to ‘be’ Emily or Katie.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
May 20, 2020
Header image: Centre College seniors Emily Shields (left) and Katie Freeman (right) interned in the Title IX office.