Alumni Spotlight: Brianna Stinsman

Stories that Shaped Us: On Being a Global Citizen and Changemaker

Brianna Stinsman studied abroad with ISA in Gold Coast, Australia Spring 2020 and is a student at Arizona State University. Brianna participated in the Community Internship Program at Griffith University where she worked as an Assistant Country Correspondent for Reporters Without Borders. Brianna currently interns in Washington D.C. through the Arizona State University Capital Scholars Program. Brianna talks about how her time in Australia shaped her personal and professional development. As Brianna said, “This program helped me become a more prepared leader equipped with the knowledge necessary to protect human rights for all people.”

We reached out to Brianna to learn more about the stories that have shaped her!

What inspired you to study abroad in Gold Coast, Australia and why did you choose the Community Internship Program at Griffith University?

Growing up in a coastal community in Southern New Jersey, I always lived two blocks away from the ocean. Regardless of what coast I am on, the ocean is my home. I love to surf and I serve as an ocean lifeguard on the Atlantic City Beach Patrol.

It just so happens that my degree in Global Studies requires an international experience to graduate. After researching the programs that my institution offered, Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast, Australia couldn’t have been a better location to meet this requirement. I am also a member of the Next Generation Service Corps at Arizona State University, which is the first Public Service Academy in the nation aimed at building changemakers in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors. Griffith University’s globally renowned Community Internship Program would allow me to complete an internship in either sector. It was all too good to be true. I intend to pursue a career in international affairs, so I figured having an internship under my belt with a global nonprofit like Reporters Without Borders would serve me well in the long run.

What did a typical day look like interning with Reporters Without Borders? 

I completed this internship in a remote format given my location in Gold Coast, Australia. I served as an Assistant Country Correspondent for Timor-Leste, The Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea working under the legendary journalist and global advocate, Bob Howarth. My mission as an intern was to document threats to journalists and their freedom to express their viewpoint freely without intimidation from government. Mr. Howarth provided me with a variety of local media outlets in each country to monitor daily.

I’d typically set up for the day at the café across my apartment, order my crepes and iced coffee, and begin writing up bi-weekly briefs for the Asia-Pacific region. The café I went to knew me on a first name basis and memorized my order as the semester went on. I’d provide Mr. Howarth with my research findings and reports regarding expression issues/media freedom so that he could inform the RSF head office in Paris of developments for the RSF Annual World Press Freedom Index. The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders since 2002 based upon the organization’s own assessment of the countries’ press freedom records in the previous year. This index is utilized by policymakers, large-scale international organizations, and advocates around the world. I also got the chance to publish an article that highlighted a workshop sponsored by the Timor-Leste United Nations Development Program and the Timor-Leste Press Council that Bob Howarth led. This workshop trained Timor-Leste’s journalists on the fight against the spread of misinformation by providing them with digital tools and techniques necessary to provide the public with critical real-time correct information during the COVID pandemic. You can read the article here.

Once COVID hit and international lockdowns began to unfold, I had to return to the States. I continued to intern for Reporters Without Borders during this time and created/maintained the first database tracking COVID-19 in the Pacific for the journalism community and general public. It really gave me a sense of purpose to contribute to a mission much larger than myself during this time of crisis and uncertainty.

Did the Community Internship Program enhance your study abroad experience with ISA?

Participating in the Community Internship was the highlight of my study abroad experience. Not only did I gain a valuable professional experience, but also a global network of like-minded individuals, mentors, and a sense of community when I was across the globe.

To this day I keep in contact with Community Internship Program Direct, Dr. Faith Valenica-Forrester, and my former supervisor, Bob Howarth. Bob refers to me as his “extra set of eyes” and we are always sending articles back and forth to one another. This was my first experience in the journalism field that exposed me to the true significance of press freedom to a healthy democracy.

I studied the Asia-Pacific from an academic perspective as a Global Studies and Public Policy dual major, but this experience shed light on the elements that make this part of the world so unique. I learned so much about the history, cultures, religions, political landscape, and geographic makeup of these nations. I still am a member of the Pacific Newsroom and stay up to date on current events. Participating in the ISA program alone was a great way to get out of my comfort zone and learn about the world, but the internship made my time in Australia much more immersive and hands-on. The academic coursework in the Community Internship Program also exposed me to aspects of social justice and equality that I wasn’t previously educated on back in America. After interning with Reporters Without Borders, I now want to do independent conflict journalism throughout my career.

What was a highlight from your time abroad in Australia?
I think a highlight from my time abroad in Australia was living at the Mantra Circle on Cavil in the heart of Surfers Paradise. Living on the 14th floor of a five star hotel with a balcony overlooking the ocean was a once in a lifetime luxury. The hotel had three pools and every amenity you could imagine. It took two minutes to walk to the beach, restaurants, shops, you name it. I refer to Surfers Paradise as the “Miami of Australia.” I would do yoga on the balcony after my morning surf overlooking the entire Gold Coast. It was unreal.

Another highlight would be getting certified as an ocean lifeguard with the Southport Surf Life Saving Club. Going through the training program was rigorous, but very rewarding. I also have to say that studying abroad with ISA introduced me to best friends from all over the country that I would have never met if I didn’t participate in the program.

How do you feel that you grew personally from this experience? How about professionally?

During my time as an undergraduate at Arizona State University, I have made a vow not to live through our ongoing humanitarian crises around the globe without contributing to solutions for a more peaceful, equitable, and just world. My time as an international exchange student and Assistant Country Correspondent with Reporters Without Borders gave me the opportunity to strengthen press freedom around the globe.

Professionally, this experience allowed me to expand my skill set, furthered my international network, and better prepared me for a career in public service upon graduation. Personally, my time in Australia furthered my commitment to global social transformation and pushed me outside of my comfort zone to lead and serve others. This program helped me become a more prepared leader equipped with the knowledge necessary to protect human rights for all people.

Tell us about your internship with the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency!

Arizona State University runs a Washington, D.C. based internship program called the ASU Capital Scholars Program. The goal of the program is to help students develop leadership skills that will enable them to be successful in their career, active in the community, and involved in policymaking. As part of the ASU Capital Scholars program, I am interning with the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency in their Division of Operations. I work in the District’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). An EOC brings together highly trained experts and state-of-the-art technology to coordinate resources, information, and crisis and emergency risk communication to strengthen the District’s ability to detect and respond to threats.

We are beginning to demobilize our efforts regarding COVID response and are entering the recovery phase of the pandemic. I assist the Division of Operations in steady-state emergency management and homeland security initiatives and potential activations of the Emergency Operations Center. When the EOC activates, I’ll be assisting the Planning Section by developing the Incident Action Plan, taking notes on critical briefings, and deploying with the Mobile Situational Awareness Team. I’m also contributing to the Mayor’s Gun Violence Task Force and an Interagency Community Resilience initiative to ensure delivery of social services and bridge existing socio-economic disparities across the district. A lot of my work is oriented around establishing equity in disaster management through internal policies within the agency and external policies across the District of Columbia.

How do you feel that your experience studying abroad and interning with Reporters Without Borders has prepared you for this role?

Having participated in the exchange program at Griffith University and interning with RSF helped me further develop existing professional competencies and helped me immensely improve my cross-cultural communication skills. During the pandemic, I learned how to collaborate as a team during a crisis. My supervisor also taught me how to monitor and translate a variety of digital new sources with different tools and techniques. The newsroom has entered a digital era and to effectively combat the rapid spread of misinformation around the world, journalists and advocates must be able to validate their sources in real time. This experience made me comfortable in fast paced environments, meet hard deadlines, and appreciate cultures/communities that differ from my own. I also became a much better researcher. All these collective skills are helping me be the best intern I can be with DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. Having nonprofit experience translates a lot into the day-to-day activities of a public safety organization.

What does being a global citizen mean to you?

Global citizenship to me is not about abandoning my identity as an American, but accepting my personal responsibility to contribute my resources and skillset to the future of humanity. It is so limiting to allow man-made borders define our capacity to lead and serve others, especially in a time of crisis. Our shared values, humanity, and ability to empathize with our brothers and sisters around the world is what defines global citizenship. As a future leader in humanitarian intervention in conflict zones and natural disasters, being a global citizen means looking beyond nationality to solve global issues. We are all much more interconnected than we think with the rise of technology and globalization. No nation alone can singlehandedly solve climate change, the refugee crisis, human rights violations, poverty, hunger, health, gender equality, the list can go on. Global citizens taking collective action and expressing solidarity CAN transform our societies. As Dali Lama once said, “It is not enough to be compassionate, we must act.”

Inspired by Brianna’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in an abroad experience? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!

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