Selected PhD internships
Matthew Burkett: Brandeis University Press
Matthew Burkett did a little of almost every aspect of academic press work at his internship with Brandeis University Press: evaluating proposals, preparing manuscripts for production, writing copy, proofreading, database and website management, organizing royalty payments, and more. "Before this internship, I only had the vaguest notion how a press worked. Now I have an introductory handle on many aspects of academic publishing, as well as on problems in and with the field." To future interns, Matthew suggests finding your interests within the press (e.g., proofreading, website work, etc), and push to be involved in those areas in some way. "If you don't ask to be involved with this specific thing, it might not dawn on others to task you with it."
Sungkyung Cho: Ireunbi Press
Sungkyung Cho did his internship at Ireunbi Press, where he revised their Korean translation of Percy Bysshe Shelley's 1821 essay, "A Defence of Poetry." Sungkyung got his hands on manuscripts of the essay stored at Oxford University and worked with the Henry Ransom Center archive at the University of Texas at Austin. He studied Shelley's piece closer than ever before as he examined its earlier iterations and the materials the poet used in the writing process. All this work will no doubt benefit Sungkyung’s dissertation on Shelley, as well as his future plans to be a researcher and professor. The internship also opened him up to work in publishing, editing, and archiving. Continuing his work with the press, he is now preparing an annotated edition of the text, writing commentary and an introductory essay: "I will have made a valuable contribution to students of Romantic literature in Korea by providing them with a well-notated and attentively edited edition of Shelley’s essay."
Jordan Clapper: Game Design
Here’s an example of an especially creative internship: Jordan Clapper researched game design. Envisioned during the first Covid year, this internship allowed Jordan to dive deep into learning about programming languages and development platforms with a focus on Unity and Twine 2.0. “One of the things I wish to do for my dissertation is to include a playable auto-ethnography to provide the reader with an opportunity to experience the challenges of designing a game on one’s own.” Being immersed in rules, process, and coding had Jordan thinking more about games and literature – and activism. As part of the internship, Jordan joined the University of Buffalo’s Palah Light Lab, “a creative and critical space that fosters poetry, participation, and pedagogy through technology and equity.” In line with working with the Lab, Jordan provides this advice to other interns: “Trying to do everything by yourself is not advisable.”
Jenny Factor: The Lady's Museum Online
The Lady’s Museum was a magazine published 1760-61, believed to be written largely by Charlotte Lennox. Today it’s been built into a digital humanities project that, among other things, preserves the history of this important text by making it accessible to the public. Jenny Factor interned with the project, providing digital assistance, especially with the creation of recordings of sections of the magazine for LibriVox. “For the elocution of long sentences, I built out a kind of musical notation system of elisions and emphases to bring each sentence’s primary meaning into focus,” Jenny said.
Jenny would like one aspect of her future work to include arts organizing for events and public humanities. Dealing with a grant-funded public resource at The Lady’s Museum trained her toward this end. The internship also helped develop archival skills that she can see using as an archive’s digital editor or public programming provider. The project had her thinking about pedagogy and different learning modalities, and also built on her skills as an editor. “The research I did on each editorial I read prepares me to edit editions or compile notes or serve on a neighborhood historical society.”
Yi He: Broadsided Press
Yi He interned with Broadsided Press. There she learned the business of running a literary nonprofit, gained experience in copyediting, and developed skills with Wordpress, web editing, and project management. Since Yi is interested in the education field, she found learning about Broadsided’s teaching materials especially valuable. She can imagine herself parlaying the knowledge gathered from this internship into work with organizations that focus specifically on creating digital educational materials.
As for advice to future interns, Yi suggests getting clear on your goals and interests so that you can involve yourself at the organization in whichever opportunities are most exciting to you. Also, for those taking internships in the publishing field, “I know it seems closely related to what we do as English PhD students, but copyediting a large amount of material according to certain publishing styles is a task of a slightly different kind.”
Ryan Hitchcock: BOLLI
Ryan Hitchcock did his internship with BOLLI: Brandeis University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. This was a good fit, since Ryan plans to teach in community colleges or at the secondary level. The internship allowed him to design and teach literature courses and to learn in depth about curriculum development. He expanded his syllabi portfolio by five classes! And he gained practice in teaching to non-academic audiences. Ryan offers advice from William James: “Prepare yourself in the subject so well that it shall be always on tap: then in the class-room trust your spontaneity and fling away all further care.”
Nayoung Kim: Broadsided Press
For her internship, Nayoung Kim served as an editorial assistant at Broadsided Press. Her responsibilities included assisting with book reviews, copyediting, and editing the website. She got to assist in the production of the anthology, Broadsided Press: Fifteen Years of Poetic and Artistic Collaboration, and even created a promotional trailer for the book. Nayoung plans to work in the publishing industry; the editorial decision-making and project management she participated in during the internship developed the hard skills she’ll need on the job. She also learned much about the soft skill of effective exchange with authors, reviewers, and publishers. “I believe this has given me precious insight on the inner ecology of professional communication.”
Nayoung advises others to think of internships as a place to try out new skills without the fear of failure.
Bailey Ludwig: Houghton Library, Harvard University
At her internship with the Houghton Library at Harvard, Bailey Ludwig reviewed restricted pre-1600 European manuscripts to determine whether or not the restrictions should be lifted. She worked with conservationists and catalogers to update online descriptions of materials, improve housing, and note needed repairs. This was a fitting internship for Bailey, who plans to pursue a career in libraries, and specifically in working with rare books. “I handled about 300 items, giving me a clearer understanding of how to handle unique materials and a sense of trends and traits coming from specific locations and time periods.” One of the most important lessons Bailey learned was how important it is to ask questions of the people you intern for and to closely observe their processes.
Even after her official internship ended, Bailey was asked to stay on at Houghton to continue her project.
Miranda Peery: Humanities Podcasting Network
Miranda Peery's internship was with the Humanities Podcasting Network (HPN), which supports educators in the creation of podcasts, often for incorporation into the classroom. Miranda's role was to research -- and eventually publish -- marketing strategies for academic podcasting. She also produced university-based events for the HPN, one of which was based (virtually) at the University of Otago in New Zealand!
Miranda plans to continue to work in the Public Humanities. "Whether this comes in the form of bridging the gap between the academy and the larger culture through work at a Humanities Center, or a more direct route such as hosting and working on humanities-based projects such as podcasts or video essay systems, has yet to be determined, but this internship has been incredibly beneficial to all of these options in multiple ways."
Miranda advises other interns to "act like a team member and not a subordinate." Confidence and question-asking go a long way. "Waiting for someone else to give you a list of things to do will just slow you down."
Sarah Perkins: Docuseries
For her internship, Sarah Perkins worked on a docuseries. Sarah already has experience in this industry, and this internship allowed her to increase her technical skills with Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, and After Effects. Additionally, she “spent significant time researching public domain or licensable footage and materials, learning more about copyright and fair use laws.” She also had the opportunity to learn more about film sales, including contract negotiating and the distribution process.
Sarah advises that when other students set up internships they find small ways of marking progress, staying optimistic, and, on occasion, taking time away from the project to re-energize. After completing her Ph.D., Sarah plans to pursue a career in filmmaking. This internship supported her goal by increasing her technical skills and setting up a network of contacts.
Carissa Wilbanks: BEJI
Carissa Wilbanks interned with the Brandeis Education Justice Initiative (BEJI), as a volunteer with partner program Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI) and with the Partakers Empowerment Program (PEP). At EPI Carissa assisted incarcerated students with writing assignments, “an invaluable experience working with non-traditional higher education students in a non-traditional setting.” At PEP she collaborated on an education workshop, which allowed her to develop skills in creating educational materials and applying for grants. Both projects helped her build a network of contacts in the field, which she’d like to join upon completing her PhD.
Carissa’s internship took place during the first Covid year, so some of her curricular plans were derailed. “My number one piece of advice for a student pursuing an internship: be prepared to be flexible.”