What was the moment in your life when you realized you wanted to explore public service?
During my sophomore year in college, I joined a campus organization called Alternative Spring Break. In this organization, you are placed with 11 other people, purposefully selected so that everyone is a stranger, and you spend months preparing for a spring break service trip. There are different social issues that these spring break trips confront and that year I was working with those recovering from drug and alcohol abuse at a farm outside of Denver. I remember entering this trip carrying preconceived stereotypes about people struggling with addiction. But after living together, sharing meals, and trading life stories, I realized that these men could not be defined by the circumstances that brought them to Harvest Farm. This trip inspired me to be an active citizen in my community, to practice law in the future, and to explore public service.
What are your main responsibilities at your position? What are you looking forward to the most in your position?
I am working at the USDA Office of Civil Rights, Employee Complaints Division. Our office is split into two halves. One half addresses the complaints about USDA’s many programs across the country and the other half focuses on complaints of workplace discrimination within the USDA itself. My responsibilities center on the latter. Given my interest in law, I feel incredibly fortunate to be placed in an office dedicated to civil rights and employment law. I have gotten a chance to become familiarized with the laws concerning the EEOC and I work side by side with attorneys who evaluate complaints and decide whether or not to accept their claims for further investigation. I have gotten to compose documents accepting or rejecting a claim of discrimination, compile case files for pending appeals, and put together a database of completed cases.
Did you find anything surprising about your internship or doing public service work?
What is new about my experience working in the USDA Civil Rights office is that the work that we do is very big-picture and somewhat impersonal. Through the case files, you learn so much about a person’s life – about their aspirations and frustrations. It is easy to get sucked in. But at the end of the day, there is no face associated with the story. I have always thought of public service as work where you have a direct connection with those that you are serving, but I have learned that this is not always the case.
How does this internship help you with your professional goals?What do you want to get out of it?
I came into DC with two major goals in mind: 1) identify and develop marketable skills; 2) network and discover new career opportunities. Not only does this internship emphasize the importance of strong writing and communication skills, but also, many of the employees here have incredibly diverse career paths. It has been eye-opening to hear about the opportunities that exist for an aspiring lawyer outside the well-worn paths of a law firm job or the Department of Justice.
What motivates you?
There is a quote that says, “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.” I am motivated to push myself to be the very best that I can be. It is actually not too hard to stay motivated in DC because I see so many people doing incredible things with their lives.
When you get off work, what do you do? What are your weekend activities?
It would be hard not to remember this summer as the summer of Pokemon Go. When so many of your friends are playing this game, it’s hard not to try your best to keep up! But outside of that, I feel lucky to be back in Washington DC because there are so many fun things to do, from restaurants, to museums, to bars and clubs. I’ve even gone to a shooting range in Maryland. Overall, I think one of my favorite things to do is explore new neighborhoods in the DC area. Not only do you get to be away from the tourists, but there are some incredibly beautiful places (ahem Alexandria).
Originally from Springfield, MO, Peter Liu graduated from Vanderbilt University magna cum laude with a BA in Political Science and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. On campus, Peter served as the Bank Co-Chair for Alternative Spring Break, the Vice President of Conferences for the Model UN team, and wrote for the Vanderbilt Political Review. Peter interned in the Asian Studies department at the American Enterprise Institute last summer and is excited to be back in DC. In the fall, Peter will be attending the University of Michigan Law School.
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Posted by Felicia Wong
Felicia Wong is currently a senior at the College of William and Mary, double majoring in Neuroscience and Asian American Studies, and minoring in Biochemistry. She is president of the Filipino American Student Association, and current non-academic projects include creating films calling for diversity curriculums/requirements and establishing an official APIA Studies program. Felicia was also elected president of Global Medical Brigades to lead a sustainable healthcare program in rural communities in Nicaragua. She hopes to connect her interests in healthcare with the community she has found in her cultural background. Having lived in Germany for most of her childhood, Felicia makes yearly trips back to visit her family, providing opportunities for her to indulge in her greatest joys: touring castles, eating at cafés, taking fashion cues from strangers, cooking with her family. Non-country specific pleasures include: biking, watching live music performances, screaming because Game of Thrones.