Students engaged in social justice work frequently face a dilemma—whether to take an unpaid internship with a cause they’re passionate about or look for paying work, perhaps outside their field.
Skylor Boualaphanh, a senior in human resource development, found himself in that situation. Thanks to the Dr. Matthew Stark Civil Liberties Internship Award, he didn’t have to choose between passion and financial stability.
“When I was awarded the scholarship, it made me more confident in myself,” says Boualaphanh. “That can go a long way for students like me.”
The award supports students engaged in unpaid internships related to social justice or civil liberties. As a Stark Intern Scholar, Boualaphanh was able to complete an internship with Lutheran Social Services, providing employment counseling and other training to south Minneapolis residents. The internship gave him valuable experience working with diverse populations and creating essential community resources. This year, Boualaphanh is working at the Minnesota State Capitol for the 2019 legislative session.
“Receiving this award motivated me to continue working hard and passionately to positively impact the world.”—Skylor Boualaphanh
The internship is named for the late civil rights activist Matthew Stark, ’59. In Stark’s career at the University, he advocated for students and for educational and intercultural social justice opportunities. After retiring from the U, he led the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union for many years and engaged in countless actions to safeguard constitutional rights.
His widow, Terri Stark, hopes the internship award helps dedicated students contribute to larger social justice efforts.
“It is my wish that Matthew’s legacy of work as an educator and his advocacy and leadership in civil liberties and civil rights continues onward in our present and well into our future,” she says. “We hope that our contribution to the assistance of these students will further that ultimate development.”
A crusader for civil rights
Matthew Stark had a long career with what was then the University’s Office of the Dean of Students and as an assistant professor. He established the Office of the Coordinator of Human Relations Programs to facilitate educational and intercultural social justice opportunities and acted as a consultant and adviser to student organizations, minority students, and graduate students.
During the civil rights movement, Stark led a contingency from Minnesota to Alabama for the march from Selma to Montgomery. He brought a busload of University students to Alabama and Georgia to engage in literacy education, register voters, and defend constitutional rights.
After retirement from the U and serving as volunteer president of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, Stark became its first paid director. It was a capstone to his decades of work to champion and defend rights for all in Minnesota and the nation, including serving on the national ACLU’s board of directors, executive committee, and national advisory council.
Stark’s efforts were recognized with the Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award, and he’s among the top five percent listed in Who’s Who in America. In 2006, the year of CEHD’s centennial, he was named one of the college’s 100 Distinguished Alumni.
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Story by Ann Dingman | Photo by Erica Loeks | Spring/summer 2019