Thank you tremendously for facilitating this daunting project. It seemed so stressful in the beginning and every step of the way you were there. You made this so it was actually fun to keep a portfolio! I can’t stress that enough. It was exciting to update my blog everyday, to add pictures and just update how my internship was coming alone.
Time flew and now I’m actually done! It feels like I didn’t even have to do anything extra only because I already blog so praise be to Allah it was a breeze!
Thank you for always adjusting projects and things of that nature for us and making it more enjoyable and enhancing our skills. You care so much and I don’t think any other college counselor could do what you do.
I appreciate everything and I truly thank you for everything you do.
You’re super awesome Ms. Chowdhury.
How did you come up with name of your campaign?
Who was the founder or how did this campaign begin?
How is Shoulder to Shoulder affiliated or related to ISNA?
I know Shoulder-to-Shoulder does interfaith. What type/kind of interfaith works do you do?
How did you prepare for the position that you have now? Did you have to work up to get to this level or..?
What’s an average day at Shoulder-to-Shoulder look like for you?
What are some of the everyday hardships you face regarding/during your campaign?
What was one of the best moments you experienced during your time with Shoulder-to-Shoulder?
What was perhaps a really difficult situation you were in and how did you overcome it?
What are some things you like and dislike about your work?
Christina Warner, campaign director for Shoulder-to-Shoulder was my choice interviewee because of her hard work and dedication in creating awareness for anti-Muslim sentiment. I had the opportunity to chat with her about many topics ranging from the type of interfaith she does, her everyday schedule, how she prepared for the position and her most favorite and least favorite part of her work.
Warner likes to start of her day with a freshly brewed cup of coffee to keep her awake for the long 8 hours she has to stay at work. She mentions, “It can be difficult to sit at a desk in front of a computer for 8 hours a day instead of tasks that are more active and relational.” This is important because one of her many daily tasks is to answer phones calls and engage with people be it in person or over the phone so she has to do her best to stay awake and be lively. When asked what her daily schedule was like she replies that it is varied. “It depends on what’s happening in the programmatic life of the campaign and the relevant current events,” she says. “Most days I’m doing a lot of email and phone calls, as well as administrative work and doing outreach to new interfaith and faith-based organizations to introduce the campaign to them. I start my day with reading relevant news items, and then attend to more productive tasks such as organizing events and panel discussions.” I even had the opportunity to help out and attend a panel discussion on immigration reform that Christina hosted during my time at ISNA.
Along with hosting and organizing different panels and events Christina engages in many interfaith activities. Warner further explains, “We help faith communities from different traditions access information about anti-Muslim sentiment, resources that address anti-Muslim sentiment, and network with one another. We support them in activities that deepen interfaith relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims, engage media and take part in advocacy related to anti-Muslim sentiment.”
To be involved with such work one must need a lot of experience and Christina is certainly qualified as received a B.A in Bible and Religion, studying biblical studies, theology and world religions at Huntington University. An interesting fact she mentions was she was there she had the opportunity to study for a semester in Jerusalem, living in a multi-faith context where political conflict was articulated in religious terms. She then graduated and worked for a year in India! (Again, a multi-faith context that was both peaceful with potential for serious conflict between religious communities.) Later on, after India she did two years of advocacy in Washington, DC with a faith-based office (Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office), on issues relating to criminal justice reform, U.S. Economic Justice, civil rights & religious freedom, and Native American advocacy. Christina adds that “This introduced be to legislative processes that were related to the national security and civil rights issues that American Muslims encounter.”
Lastly, towards the end of our conversation I wanted to know more about a different aspect, such as her favorite and least favorite part about the job. “I like the people I interact with. I like the level of self-supervision balanced with direct supervision that I receive. I like that I work close to my house, making my commute easier and shorter, which allows for a better work-life balance. I like that I engage with diverse groups of people with different perspectives, strengths and values. I like that I get to travel periodically. I like my officemates.” The only downside she mentions, as said earlier was struggling with being at a desk and computer for so much of her time. “I prefer being more active, more diversity in my environment and being freer to set my own schedule for the day.”
Being the director of such a wonderful campaign I was curious to know what one of the best moments must have during her time since she joined. “The best moments are when I see engagement from folks across the States with our work – indicating that our work meets a need and effectively addresses issues of anti-Muslim sentiment. This happens when we have a large number of folks on calls, in audiences, and we can see them interacting with one another in supportive ways. Seeing what has been isolated work to support American Muslims become more coordinated and growing closer to a movement is inspiring, and motivates me to continue working toward this goal through Shoulder-to-Shoulder.” Working with Christina opened up my eyes and really expanded my understanding of interfaith works and it’s profound impact.
“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” –Laura Ingalls Wilder. This quote sums up my entire internship experience. You may think that just because I had the opportunity to work in the nation’s capital I probably did something amazing, or got to go to amazing places. Although I did not meet the president of the United States I did manage to gain quite the experience.
This summer I had the privilege to work with the Islamic Society of North American’s office for Interfaith and Community Alliances. This office “runs its community outreach and interfaith programs, strengthens ties with local grassroots organizations and engages in joint initiatives with other mainstream religious organizations.” Their main goal is create a platform of diversity and a system where people from different faiths can come and unite as one and break down stereotypes. As an intern obviously my job wasn’t really to do any of the above but to be more of a receptionist. We had a small office with about four rooms, and I sat on a desk in the center of it all. My main tasks were to organize and maintain files and records, answer phones, fax, and other related office duties, assist with general office management and operations etc., and assist with IOICA communications, such as publicizing events, photographing and reporting on IOICA activities to ISNA’s Communications Department.
I would start my morning with the brutal ear drum busting beeps of my alarm clock and sluggishly get up and head to the washroom. Most of the time my dad I would go together so we would rush out the house and drive as fast we can. We drove to the MARC station which was a few minutes’ drive from our house. A lot of the times we reached there, the train was standing and we would have to literally run, show our tickets and throw ourselves inside the train before it closed. Our stop, Union Station was about 20 minutes away and in the train ride I would switch between my find-a-word puzzles, PSAT review, read a book, or just listen to my iPod. As we arrived to Union Station, a herd of people would flood out of the train and scurry on outside to get to work. A lot of times I liked to casually walk out and just absorb the travel atmosphere that engulfed you as you walk inside the building itself. The smell of freshly brewed coffee from Starbucks, the murmur and excitement of little children perhaps going on their first Amtrak ride, or just the sound of suitcases gliding across the floor brought nostalgia and sometimes I felt like turning around and getting a ticket and hop a train to random place.
I then headed over about 3 blocks to my office. I would scan my card and the door would open and I would head 3 flights over to the third floor to my office that stood on the left as you exit. Most of the time a coworker, Christina, would always be there before me so the door would usually be unlocked. The few times I came first, I would use my key and open the office myself. I would take my time card and scan it underneath the automatic scanner and it would clock in. Then I would put myself down, and sit on my chair and turn on the computer. To be honest I didn’t have much to do in the beginning except answer the phone so I would browse through random college sites in the meantime and wait for the phone to ring. In the beginning, my responses were a bit off; perhaps either I spoke too fast or mumbled my way through a call. Christina’s office was directly in front of my desk and her door would be open majority of the time unless she had a conference or the like. She herself received a lot of calls so I would take note of the sharpness of her voice and the promptness of her responses. If she did not know the answer to a question she would kindly respond, “If you give me a moment I can definitely look it up for you.” Small nuances I paid attention to and soon got the hang of it. I myself could admit that I have mastered the art of phone calling by the end of the internship.
Along with phone calls, I ended up grasping the art of other menial tasks and duties of an average intern such as filing. Filing was probably the most stressful and arduous task of mine because there was so much of it. Another lesson I had picked up along the way was to take a few minutes of your time every day and keep things in order. I had the task of filing assigned to me by my secondary supervisor after my first one had left. He travels quite frequently and as a result has piles of papers stashed underneath his desk. It took days and days and hours to go through them. By the end of it, I soon became familiar with the papers and noticed that if he had just taken the time to put papers back as soon as he came back from a trip or finished with something he would not have this disarray to deal with. He didn’t like that many of the previous labels on the folders were handwritten and so I had to also type, print cut , and place each individual label for each folder that was handwritten. This was truly a test of great patience. Till my last day I was finishing up last minute filing work but in the end I had finished and felt proud.
Another huge project that I had the opportunity to create and witness was an important meeting to discuss the crisis in Syria and how to support the Syrian people through efforts to advance human rights and democracy in Syria. At least 50 people were in attendance from approximately 40 American organizations including Muslim, interfaith, and Syrian American groups. I began by searching for the emails of an enormous list of people that my supervisor gave me. It was a pain at times because a lot of their websites didn’t give their emails and so to add more work I had to call them up and ask them to give me their email and even then many people did not pick up their phones. Afterwards as the RSVP’s came in I had to mark it on spreadsheet and for the people who didn’t response I had to call them up and personally ask them if they can attend or not. Throughout this process I learned a few tips and tricks on organizing and planning such as putting all the names on an excel sheet and color code the RSVP’s to who is coming, who isn’t and any other information needed for the event. A day before the event my supervisor asked me to make tent cards for each attendee that’s coming. There were at least 50 names and that meant printing double sided cards for 50 names. This was a laborious task because I had to individually type up each name twice and then properly place it in the center of the card online then make sure I spelled the name right. I did botch a few cards but this activity taught me a lot to double and triple check twice before doing anything because in the long run it saves you more time. I did it all day and had to finish the next day. I came early the next day because I knew they would need a lot of help but turns out everyone was running late. I still finished the cards then as my supervisor was on her way she forwarded me the agenda and other papers to print and copies of. Then my secondary supervisor walked in and explained to me to do an assembly line and make packets with all the papers and place them in the paper folders he just bought for all the attendees. I learned a lot about efficiency and the best way to do things when you are running on a limited amount of time. Throughout the meeting I was asked to make a few more cards for new attendees, help setting up, and do whatever else was asked of me. It was a great experience to see the faces of the people that I researched and meet them in person. Overall it was a great experience and I think from this specific I learned a lot.
Some days you could say flew by, some days on the other hands went by slower than ever. My favorite part will always be the commute and the experience to freely go to places on my own. It made me feel independent and I enjoyed being faced with difficulties so I can evaluate myself and how respond to them. For example one time my dad caught the train and I was a minute late and I watched the gates close in front of me. I then had the option to wait 40 minutes or take the metro. I did take the metro on my own but this was different because there were two middle stops I had to take to get to my home stop. I was a bit scared I might take the wrong one or the wrong line, but I put my trust in Allah, said bismillah and did it. I loved it. I love being on my own and figuring out things on my own. I can’t be more grateful for having this opportunity Alhamdulillah.
What a long journey it has been!
Never thought this day would come by so fast. Alas, it is my last day here.
This week was to be honest, the most mundane of all the weeks I’ve been here but perhaps the cause of that is doing the excessively large amounts of filing. Nonetheless that is what in intern pretty much does, so I cannot complain.
I am glad it’s over though. I’m ready to go back to school.
I am locked out.
It was my last week of internship, and as I got a ready I decided I was going to take my mini Chromebook with me to work, so I could finally get to do my interview with my co-worker. I was, at first taking two bags with me, because the laptop would ruin my actual bag. Then after some thought I realized tugging around two bags back and forth on 13 minute walk would not be the most efficient way to do things. Thus I resorted to putting all my belongings into the bigger bag. I triple checked the inside of my purse to make sure I didn’t forget anything. Little did I forget to check the outside pocket containing the most valuable possessions to me during my commute: my card and my key to the office.
First of all, you need a card to get into the building but sooner or later someone’s there to open it. As I came up the elevator to the third floor I was praying to see the office door open, because if it’s closed that means no one’s there. To my dismay the door was closed. Thankfully I didn’t come at my usual 9 o’clock time. I came at 10:15 and then decided to sit on the chair outside the office. I then waited there for a while then decided it was best to just go the Union Station and do my work. Thankfully I brought the stack of business cards I was supposed to transfer the information to with me so I could just work outside the office.
I realized Union Station was a long walk so I looked up directions to the nearest Starbucks and headed out. (Yes I was fasting but it was the only place I was certain that had wifi.) Knowing me I’m pretty horrible with directions but I was not about to sit outside the office for 7 hours.
Alhamdulillah I did manage to find my way there and started my work.
Before I had left, I slipped an index card through the door with my cell number on it so that they could call me if anyone happened to come in the office later on that day.
Around 1 PM, right on time for Dhuhr, I receive a call from Christina, a co-worker, letting me know that she’s in the office so I can come in at anytime.
I was quite thankful at the moment because as I was leaving, a huge family sat right in front of me, taking sips of my favorite drink from Starbucks. I dashed out the place as fast as I could because my fast was really getting to me.
When I got back I got started of other work that my second supervisor gave to me and I went back home as usual.
What a weird day.
I hope this letter reaches you in the best of faith and health. I hope you are enjoying grad school, I know it’s something you’ve wanted to study all your life.
I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for giving me an opportunity that I will and can never forget.
Thank you for being a one of a kind supervisor. From day one you were nothing short of kind and helpful to me. You taught many so many lessons not by mouth but by action and I will always remember them.
You told me what to do but you always gave me the freedom to explore and find different ways to come around it and I really appreciate that.
You taught me more efficient ways to do everyday tasks that I actually do incorporate in my life now.
You taught me the etiquettes of workmanship and how to act in an office environment.
You taught me what to do when something fails or doesn’t go right.
You taught me how to act when people don’t necessarily agree with your ways of doing things.
I always remember how you would handle phone calls from angry people when you didn’t even do anything but you always remained patient.
You are an amazing person inside and out and I can’t be more grateful for having you as my supervisor.
Thanks for everything.