It took exactly two weeks for Voice of America to hook Diane Gremillion. She interned for a short stint just before her first year at Richmond.
Her time at the country’s official external broadcast institution was typically hectic: She helped plan journalist training for coverage of an H1N1 outbreak in Hong Kong. There was famine in Somalia. And she was also asked to interview the second lady, Dr. Jill Biden.
"I immediately wanted to go back to that experience," Gremillion says. "International journalism and human rights fascinated me."
Two years later, the Bonner Scholar returned for a much longer stint through the Jepson School of Leadership Studies 20th Anniversary Fund, part of the UR Summer Fellowships program. Gremillion loved the mission of VOA, which works to inform, engage, and connect people around the globe in support of freedom and democracy.” The organization's first broadcasts went out during World War II, and today they reach roughly 164 million people each week in 45 different languages.
VOA also trains foreign journalists on ethics, best practices, and reporting techniques as they cover major issues in their own countries.
"They really identify controversial areas and train journalists on how to cover them and create dialogue in their region of the world," Gremillion says. "There's usually not one clear answer, but it's been thrilling to take part in dialogues on these issues."
That dialogue requires a lot of research. One of Gremillion's main projects involved researching the politics of water in the Nile River Basin's 11 countries. She helped identify major issues, organize field trips, and recruit qualified journalists from all of the affected countries for VOA programs and training.
The area's water woes aren't new, but plans for dams in any of the countries pose a great risk of decreasing access to water in communities downstream. Gremillion's job was pulling together journalists from all countries to help communicate the big picture issues of hydropolitics in northeast African nations.
Gremillion also helped develop a training session in Nepal, which, as luck would have it, she'll be in the country for this November. During the fall, Gremillion is studying comparative human rights in Chile, Jordan, and Nepal through the International Honors Program, a partner program of the Office of International Education.
The choice is an extension, in many ways, of her work at VOA. The program critically examines U.S. foreign policy and human rights abroad. Much of her work at VOA delved into the question of basic rights like water access in other countries. It's work she'd like to one day continue as a policy and legal expert.
"This summer has really solidified for my vision of going to law school," Gremillion says. "I did this less with a job in mind, but it helped me define where I want to go in the future, particularly with human rights law. It's easy to get lost in all of the issues and details, but having a broader perspective clarified the importance of critical thinking skills."
"This type of work is just fascinating," adds Gremillion. "And I want to do work like this that can sustain policy changes on a systemic level."