Education abroad and international internships at CSU helped solidify her decision to pursue a law degree after graduation and realize “the route I want to take with social work and my vision for dismantling oppressive systems.”
Jenna Biedscheid is working toward her goal of practicing international human rights as a lawyer so she can advocate for the protection of human rights both at home and abroad, a journey she began as an undergraduate student at Colorado State University.
“Because there are so many people from Nepal going to the Middle Eastern Gulf countries and Malaysia, those places are typically the focus of monitoring rights abuses, and there’s a very high prevalence of rights abuses in both of those places,” said Biedscheid, who is graduating in December with a Bachelor of Social Work degree with a minor in International Development.
While at CSU, she studied in Nepal through the education abroad program, and she is currently completing a virtual international internship placement through the School of Social Work, with the Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice based in Kathmandu.
Biedscheid was nominated as an outstanding graduate this fall in the School of Social Work. “This internship affords Jenna a global perspective, and she demonstrates a true aptitude for macro level advocacy work,” said social work instructor Kristin Mooney. “She is highly motivated and passionate about her work.”
Discovering a passion for other cultures
Biedscheid has steadily pursued her passion for learning about other cultures, beginning with an exploratory trip to Nepal during winter break in 2018.
“I went there myself for two weeks,” said Biedscheid “I had been working a lot that summer and saved up money, and was wanting an experience outside of my comfort zone.”
Following her trip, Biedscheid declared a major in social work. “I really loved the culture and I felt very at home there,” she said. “I came back and reflected on it and just realized social justice is something I really cared about from that experience.”
In CSU’s School of Social Work, Biedscheid found a field of study that included understanding how social workers make a difference in communities. It reminded her of the collective mindset she witnessed firsthand while in Nepal.
“It’s a completely different mindset than individualism,” said Biedscheid, “so it expanded my mind to a whole new way we can interact with each other and take care of each other and have an interconnected community, rather than a ‘me for myself, you for you’ kind of community. I wanted to dive deeper into that, and learn more about that.”
Combining CSU’s social work degree program with a minor in international development
As she began taking classes in her major, Biedscheid realized she wanted to combine her Social Work major with international studies, and pursued opportunities to learn more at CSU, including adding a minor in International Development.
“I’ve done a lot of informational interviews while at CSU,” Biedscheid said. “I learned a lot about what it’s like to have a non-profit and the nitty-gritty about harm that can be caused. Within the minor I have had professors who expanded my understanding of international work in general.”
Along with her classes, Biedscheid studied abroad in Nepal in the Spring of 2020. “Yeah, so I was sent home early from that,” she said, “but I think being there during the pandemic added to my understanding of the differences in vulnerabilities in some countries versus ours.”
Yet Biedscheid completed independent research during her education abroad and presented “Non-state actors initial response to COVID-19 in Nepal” at the annual College of Health and Human Sciences Research Day event.
She then persisted by finding her way into an international field education placement in 2021, which she is completing virtually. The experience of a virtual internship in Nepal is complimenting her desire to specialize in international social work.
“Jenna was very determined to succeed,” said BSW field placement coordinator Kelly Maycumber. “She showed continuous flexibility, patience, passion, and tenacity in the pursuit of an international placement best suited for her long-term goals.”
Her field placement instructor is CSU alumna Rebecca Waller (BSW ’16, MSW ’18). “Rebecca’s been really helpful as far as navigating the cross-cultural setting and being mindful of cultural humility and things like that,” said Biedscheid. “She did her undergrad internship in Ghana.”
“Cultural humility is a verb for Jenna, as it should be for all social workers,” said Waller. “Listening to her approach cultural differences with continual research and reflection has inspired me to re-examine my own biases and practices as well.”
Focusing on international human rights as an undergraduate
The pandemic hasn’t deterred Biedscheid from the path she set out for herself in the social work degree program. Instructors and staff in CSU’s School of Social Work have worked with her to adapt.
“It takes a lot of coordination with my onsite supervisor,” Biedscheid said. “He and I message over What’s App really frequently—almost every day. We connect on what I’ve done that day, and what tasks he has for me. And sometimes we do a video call and have a little chat, small talk, to get to know each other.”
One of Biedscheid’s projects was analyzing bilateral labor migration agreements between Nepal and destination countries. She expects government officials in Nepal will use it as a guideline for future labor migration agreements.
“Basically, the population we’re focusing on is migrant workers, and the macro level process we’re focusing on is labor migration,” Biedscheid said. “In Nepal, remittances from labor migration make almost half of the country’s GDP, so it’s a very, very integral part of Nepali society,”
“The purpose of these labor migration agreements between Nepal and other governments is to come up with a mutual understanding of the process of migration and how to govern it,” added Biedscheid. “So in the agreements they’ll have a baseline recruitment fee, they’ll have protections for women…our project was to analyze what in these agreements is protecting individuals’ rights, and what needs to be included to further protect their rights.”
Finding success as a student during changing times
Hard work has clearly been part of achieving her goals, but Biedscheid says key elements of her success as a student included a combination of open-minded self-determination and tailored self-care.
“I think what’s helped me a lot is engaging in CSU culture, just knowing what’s offered,” she said. “Knowing there’s a SLICE office, knowing what professors are here, knowing what research they do, and then finding what interests me, and talking to them, and trying to keep building that knowledge base.”
“I’ve also been developing a more diverse tool set for self-care because I’ve realized different scenarios require different practices,” said Biedscheid. “I think taking different categories like spiritual, emotional, mental, physical—asking yourself which one of those you need in any moment—is a good way to be balanced. I think I’ll be learning how to do this for the rest of my life.”
Biedscheid says social work can be part of many different ideas that prospective students have for making a difference in the world by tailoring their degree program to their own interests.
“I would say, don’t be afraid to be creative with your goals and aspirations. Yes, you can go into child protection, yes, you can go into mental health or behavioral health, but you can also do a million other different things. The possibilities with social work really feel endless, so just tap into your own interests and figure out a way to bring that into your passion for social work!”