Legal studies student interns with California DA

When Vanessa Bautista ’16 went home to Walnut Creek, California this summer, she worked as an intern with the Alameda County District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley.

Bautista, a communication major and legal studies/politics minor, worked with the Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEAT) Watch Program. HEAT is a collaborative effort with the DA’s Office to protect local communities and prosecute human traffickers.

Surprised to find out that girls are the most in danger for human trafficking and most are younger than her, Bautista was inspired to raise awareness and make change. She helped prosecutors prepare for cases and followed them to court where they served as the voice of human trafficking victims.

“It was surreal seeing both behind the scenes process and then later the developed presentation,” she said.

“A legal studies minor offers a student the opportunity to explore multiple facets of the law and how it weaves into most disciplines,” said Debra Levis, assistant professor of politics and chair of legal studies. “By participating in law related internships, students, like Vanessa, find out firsthand in discovering how the law relates to business, policy and case law decisions.”

Bautista’s favorite part of the internship was working on O’Malley’s campaign. She contributed social media tips in the collaborative working environment and appreciated being “looked as an equal, as opposed to just ‘some kid.’”

“The internship gave me a great insight into the life of district attorneys, aspiring lawyers, team members, and the altogether family feel of how a court house works,” she said. “Lawyers and courthouses have the notorious reputation of being a dark place filled with dishonesty, but I was able to see the opposite of that.”

Bautista’s internship was highlighted on the HEAT Watch Program’s website.