Addie Rauschert’s, ’13, concentration in human rights isn’t listed among the University of Richmond’s academic programs. That’s because it’s her own self-designed curriculum, based in the international studies program, with classes in anthropology, political science and modern languages that help unpack the complexities of human trafficking and other human rights violations.
A podcast that Rauschert heard the summer before she came to Richmond sparked her interest in human trafficking. That school year, she helped revive the University's chapter of Students Stopping the Trafficking of Persons (SSTOP).
“Human trafficking led me to international studies — I wanted to do an Africa concentration for a while,” she says. “But trafficking is not limited to Africa. It’s all around the world.” She started talking to professors and narrowed in on the option to design her own concentration around her passion.
“I’ve written about human trafficking in whatever class I’ve been in,” she says. The course subject doesn’t matter — with the opportunity to do her own research, she gravitates to the topic and finds connections, whether the class is political science or German literature.
During a summer studying with one of the University’s partners in Copenhagen, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, Rauschert took her first class specifically focused on human trafficking and prostitution in Europe. This year she is studying abroad again — first in South Africa for the fall semester, where she plans to research some aspect of trafficking prevention or aftercare for victims; then in Thailand, where she will intern with a micro-finance organization and do volunteer work with women coming out of trafficking.
Rauschert’s first in-depth exploration of the aftercare field came in a class she took at Richmond — the Sophomore Scholars in Residence course on global health, one of the University’s living-learning communities. While helping to organize a two-day, on-campus seminar on aftercare, she simultaneously worked with classmates to study an aftercare curriculum and create a digital story about that work.
Aftercare is critical, Rauschert explains, because “freedom doesn’t just start when someone’s rescued. It’s a process that takes a long time. They could go back. Sometimes that’s the only way they know, or they need the money.” Through aftercare training, social workers and students interested in the field learn how victims rebuild their lives and work through trauma.
Though she has learned about trafficking in different regions of the world, Rauschert is quick to point out that human trafficking exists in Richmond, too. “That shifts the perspective of it being far away,” she says, and encourages other students to expand their awareness of the issue. “Begin educating yourself. Pick it as a topic for a paper. Watch a documentary. Get plugged in to an organization like SSTOP.”
When she’s not organizing awareness events on campus, Rauschert volunteers a lot of her time with Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI), a grassroots, faith-based nonprofit committed to eradicating modern-day slavery. “I’ve been a dedicated volunteer [since the organization began in winter 2009], helping out mostly with networking and public speaking,” she says. “With RJI, there are opportunities to do lobbying at the Capitol; train people who work in social services, homeless organizations, and churches; or go into schools and do an awareness program for kids.”
Rauschert is considering how counseling might play into her future career and while abroad, she hopes to investigate economically sustainable models to help victims of trafficking. Even if her career track takes her down a different path, she intends to stay committed to an organization like RJI.“I recognize that issues like human trafficking come and go [in people’s minds], but my motivation is something that will not come and go,” she says. “I feel called to care about it — now, when it’s popular, and in the future when it’s fallen off the public radar.”