Combating human trafficking

Hattie Werk '14 and Janet Napolitano
Hattie Werk ’14 with Janet Napolitano, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Hattie Werk ’14 spent her summer highlighting an issue with international implications that is all but invisible to most Americans.

The Wheaton College senior contributed to a public campaign against human trafficking as a press intern for the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where she used social media networks to inform Americans about its dangers and to keep the United States safe and secure.

“I think it is important for the public to understand that human trafficking is still a very prevalent issue that exists in the U.S,” Werk said. “It is necessary that people become aware of the existence of human trafficking here so that victims can be identified and given support.”

During her internship, which was supported by the college’s New Global Security Fellowship, Werk took an active role with the Blue Campaign, an DHS initiative designed to combat human trafficking in the United States and abroad. She worked closely with social media platforms to promote the campaign, which was founded by the department in 2009.

“DHS uses Twitter and Facebook to get the word out and provide information on what the public can do to stop human trafficking,” Werk explained.  “They also have a website with more details, including information, videos, pamphlets, cards, and posters.”

As an international relations major, the nationally and globally-minded nature of the Blue Campaign connected directly with her studies at Wheaton.

“I’ve always thought my life would go in that direction,” Werk explained. “My family is very political. But when I came to Wheaton, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I chose International Relations after taking some classes in my areas of interest. I didn’t have a conscious goal to go into politics, but I think it was always in the back of my mind.”

Werk’s internship at Homeland Security was highly competitive. She worked with six other interns from prestigious institutions across the country, from the University of California, Berkeley to Bowdoin College in Maine.

Werk believes that her experiences at Wheaton helped her to thrive in Washington over the summer.

“At Wheaton, I’ve had a lot of professors who stressed the importance of being concise in the way that I write, which was very important in the real world,” she said. “Nobody wants to sift through too much information to find what you’re trying to say. That was one of the major things that helped me this summer.”

— By Alex Cilley ’14