When she first entered college, Avery Holzworth ’25 intended to pursue a legal career after graduation. Since then, however, her interests have shifted.

“Now, I see myself working in international relations,” she said. “I’m part of Model UN at Stonehill. By participating in that and engaging in conversations with my academic advisor, I’ve been inspired to consider other directions.”

Hoping to gain experience working in the field of global security studies, the political science and Spanish major spent a few weeks interning in Armenia during summer 2023. This opportunity was made possible by Stonehill’s Learning Inside Out Network (LION) program. The intensive international initiative builds upon courses on security studies, conflict analysis, global crime and more by connecting students with impactful internships and research projects based in Armenia.

LION cohort at Noravank Monastery.
Left to right: Todd Gernes, Linda Gernes, Anna Ohanyan, Peter Ubertaccio, Amanda Goucher '24, Leah Tabor '25, Avery Holzworth '25, Michelle Heredia '25, and representative from Eurasia Partnership Foundation. During their time abroad, the 2023 LION cohort visited Goshavank, a monastery located in the village of Gosh in the Tavush Province of Armenia.

Holzworth completed two internships during the three weeks she was abroad. She worked for Democracy Today, a non-governmental organization (NGO) made up of public leaders, scholars and activists fighting for human rights. While there, she conducted research on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, focused on matters related to women, peace and security.

The rising junior also interned for the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, which empowers citizens to enact social justice and economic reform through hands-on programming. During her time with this NGO, she wrote a brief examining how human rights recommendations for the Armenian people have changed over time.

The four other students who participated in the 2023 LION program with Holzworth interned for the Fund for Armenian Relief Children’s Support Center Foundation (Leah Tabor '25), CRRC-Armenia (Michelle Heredia '25), Transparency International (William Sparrow '25) and the Caucasus Institute (Amanda Goucher '24). Professor of Political Science Anna Ohanyan, who has led the LION initiative in collaboration with Associate Professor of History Todd Gernes since 2019, notes that program graduates have historically parlayed their internship experiences into worthwhile professional opportunities upon graduating from Stonehill.

“A LION student from 2019 was accepted to the graduate program on global security studies at George Mason University, and I believe he is currently with the State Department,” she said. “Other students have built on their LION internships to advance into peace and conflict studies at American University, and into environmental policy graduate programs at Pace University, double degree with Yale University.”

LION facilitators Todd Gernes, Associate Professor of History, and Anna Ohanyan, the Richard B. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of Political Science & International Relations, participate in a keynote panel discussion on “Declines and Resilience in Democracy Worldwide: United States and Beyond.”

Sharing Perspectives

Besides interning abroad, LION students also experience what it is like to attend an academic conference. This year’s group presented at the “Local Roots of Global Peace: Junior Voices in Global Security and Human Rights” conference at the Eurasia International University campus in Yerevan, Armenia. Ohanyan believes that students benefited in many ways from attending.

“They took part in focus groups and other hands-on data collection research activities, which has advanced their skills as researchers in more ways than one,” she said. “In addition, Amanda Goucher '24, one of the LION scholars, pointed that the conference offered a much richer and multi-layered perspective on global affairs, particularly on the war in Ukraine.”

Goucher, a political science major with a criminology minor, presented research on the ways Armenia is disproportionately experiencing the effects of climate change compared to other countries. The political science major’s decision to pursue this topic was inspired by her experiences fulfilling the College’s general education requirements.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with my professor about environmental justice and the effects of climate change on marginalized communities and developing countries,” she said.

Students weren’t the only ones who presented at the conference. Ohanyan was joined by Gernes and Vice President of Academic Affairs Peter Ubertaccio for a roundtable discussion about democratic declines in the U.S. and abroad. Ohanyan also led and participated in sessions on the relationship between the United States and China, protest politics, and various other topics.

Gernes facilitated two faculty development workshops geared toward supporting educators in education technology design and implementation in Armenia and other countries in the region. He also organized A Drop in the Sea: Armenian Contemporary Writers (Yerevan, 2003), a capstone panel for which he served as English language editor.

"The LION program, to me, reflects the essence of Stonehill College’s mission," Gernes said. "Transformative learning, after all, means transforming ourselves, remembering the passion and curiosity that led us to be scholars and educators and sharing that passion and curiosity with generations of students.”

Inspiring Others to Become Global Citizens

Between interning and showcasing impactful research before an international audience, this year’s LION scholars have truly made the most of their summer. Reflecting on all she gained from the program, Holzworth believes the time she spent away has pushed her outside her comfort zone.

“As I settle back into life at home, I’m excited to talk about the things I’ve learned while I was traveling,” she said. “I didn’t know much about Armenia and its history before this program. All that I’ve experienced since will enable me to talk to others about important issues and inspire them to explore these topics on their own.” 

Want to Read More About the Learning Inside Out Network?

As part of their program requirements, this year's LION scholars wrote blog posts about their time abroad.