DDI Intern Feature: a Q & A with Samara Johnson

Samara Johnson is a 2021 Graduate of UConn School of Social Work and worked as an intern for the Democracy and Dialogues Initiative for the 2020-2021 academic year. Read more about Samara’s work and experiences as an intern below. 

What was the inspiration or motivation for pursuing the internship with Democracy and Dialogues Initiative?

For the rest of my life, I plan to connect and serve in Human Rights organizations. The position of DDI at UConn’s Human Rights Institute was and continues to be critical. I wanted to learn more and thought DDI would be an excellent place to grow; my instincts were right.

Tell us a bit about your activities this semester as a DDI Intern.

As a facilitator, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in a number of dialogues this year. The Encounter series is one of them. The Encounters Series purpose is to learn, foster connection and inspire social action. Furthermore, throughout this year, I collaborated with the racism and community dialogues. The impact of these dialogues is to deeply engage in conversations on Racism and compile documentation of Racial Injustices at our school as well as Anti-racist Action Steps our UConn community needs to commit to.

These documents are all sent to the UConn Administration.

I was also fortunate to create and organize a Democracy and Dialogue Film Series this past year.This program is open to the public and we watch documentaries centered on social justice. Subsequently we engage in a dialogue, action steps are included in our dialogue. The goal and intention of this program is to further educate and learn about social justice and human rights through the power of film and dialogue. Critical thought, learning from others and about oneself, growing and evolving are central components to this program. 

As you reflect on your experience as an DDI Fellow this year, what were some of the most significant takeaways?

Never underestimate Dialogue. Dialogue plants seeds and carries power!

How do you see dialogue as intersecting with your academic and professional goals?

Social work is relational. Building community and fueling social action is central in Macro Social Work. Dialogue functions as a crucial role in this. 

Is there anything you might wish to say to someone who has never participated in a dialogue?  

Silent pauses are normal, lean into silence. Dialoguing is impactful and can spark social change. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? I absolutely love interning here and have gained many new skills in facilitation I will carry for life. An incredible immense thank you to the entire Dodd Human Rights Impact Team for being amazing genuine people.