By Advocacy Coordinator Maria Thomson
With an interest in global conflict, US policy, and African Studies, I joined my campus STAND chapter last year upon recommendation from a friend. When an inauspiciously timed softball game prevented the majority of the chapter from attending STAND’s 2011 Pledge2Protect conference, I found myself on a bus to DC, not knowing what to expect and mostly just enjoying the opportunity to get off campus for the weekend. There, I met then-Advocacy Coordinator Daniel Solomon, who recommended that I apply for his position based on my interest in all things policy.
Serving as Advocacy Coordinator on the Managing Committee this has been an incredible experience. The position has given me a broad perspective on the field of mass atrocities advocacy, enabling me to see how everyone from students at the grassroots level to adults at the professional level engage with these topics. With this perspective, I’ve also been able to learn in more depth about the wide range of policy approaches available for any given conflict, and have had the great privilege of talking with many different people about their thoughts and concerns on atrocities prevention policy. The Advocacy Coordinator position placed me in a convenient place to act on my own convictions about what US foreign policy should look like, but it also placed me in a strong place to be a listener, to absorb the opinions of others, and to bring these thoughts into productive conversation which emphasized a policy development process that is first careful, deliberate, involved, and self-critical. This position has also provided me with an enviable opportunity to develop my own capacity to be an effective advocate — for mass atrocities prevention or other issues. By no means did I come into this position as an expert, but over the course of the last year I’ve learned bundles about the lobbying process, US foreign policy and legislation, policy and legislation development, conflict analysis, and much more.
Moreover, I’ve also come out of this position with many invaluable relationships — with people I admire and who inspire me; with people who’ve taught, guided, and challenged me; with people who I have had the privilege of teaching; with people with whom I’ve simply enjoyed goofing off and throwing around 90s slang. The students I worked with this year, in particular, have been endlessly inspiring. Whether starting a chapter from scratch or trying to negotiate a conflict-free campus agreement with a tough administration, students’ use of creative problem-solving to navigate their particular positioning and resources has been especially inspiring to me, demonstrating the power of will, passion, and perseverance to promote peaceful solutions to global conflicts. I’ve been immensely impressed by the quality of policy discussions on Core Chapter email threads, and feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know individual STAND leaders and help them adapt policy approaches to their specific interests and situations. Additionally, I’ve been privileged to work with the rest of the Managing Committee, whose energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, and commitment to STAND have had immeasurable impact on bringing students together across the nation to work collaboratively toward peaceful conflict resolution. Their dedication to making this organization more effective and more inclusive — while maintaining the lightheartedness that builds strong friendships and makes long-term work on often emotionally-trying issues bearable — is remarkable, and it has been an honor to work with them.
I recommend the Advocacy Coordinator position to anyone who is interested in the policy side of global conflicts, who is self-motivated and open-minded, and who willing to experiment with new strategies and approaches to old problems. The position holds incredible potential — access to professionals and experts with long and dynamic experiences in the advocacy sphere, access to a wealth of information on conflicts, policy, and legislation, and the ability to connect with and lead a national student movement — and what you get out of the job depends on how much you are willing to put into it. I am excited for all that awaits the next person to assume this role, and look forward to seeing how STAND’s advocacy changes and develops under new leadership. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns about this position; I am more than happy to chat with you about it. Best, until then!