Robert CochranHannah Jung | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Robert Cochran received a Higher Administrative Internship during the 2020/2021 year and was placed as the Writing Resources Fellow with the University Writing Program (UWP). This role was created to develop a standardized and accessible format for the many types of writing resources the UWP has collected and generated over the years. Robert first collaborated with UWP staff to develop a new format for handouts, and then he worked on converting and editing these UWP resources to ensure their full accessibility. He also created new handouts and exercises to address specific topics and types of academic writing.

Tell us about what a typical week in this position looks like.

A typical week for me involved about eight to ten hours of work. I spent the majority of this time converting old handouts from the Writing Center into a new accessible format and updating the online repositories. Along the way, I would also correspond with fellow UWP staff to resolve questions about how to edit materials or to discover the authors of certain handouts. Some weeks I would also meet with UWP faculty via Zoom to discuss our progress, to set the agenda for future activities, and to learn more from them about the UWP and how it serves the Brandeis community.

What competencies, credentials, and/or skills did you build through your project?

My experience was wonderful for several key reasons. Of primary importance is the fact that it gave me the opportunity to work closely with knowledgeable and personable individuals, each of whom were truly generous in sharing their own expertise and experiences with me. From them I also gained new insights into leadership, professional decision-making, and collaboration that I firmly believe will be useful in my future professional life.

Another excellent aspect of this position was the variety of the tasks and skills involved. As mentioned above, this internship necessitated teamwork and effective communication – but besides this, the position asked me to take training in web content management and digital accessibility, and to develop new skills with digital tools. For example, I furthered my knowledge of MS Word and Adobe Acrobat Pro, and I learned how to use Cascade and HTML to manage web content and ensure compliance with federally-mandated accessibility standards.

How do you see yourself building on this experience and what you’ve learned through it in the future?

I can envision any number of ways in which I can build on this learning experience. Firstly, of course, I’ve learned valuable lessons about teamwork and communication: for instance, that there will be disagreements and conflicting points of view, yet if managed well through communication and compromise, these disagreements can in fact make the end results better. These skills of communicating and of reconciling diverse opinions are highly transferable, and I am quite certain I will be able to use them in virtually any job environment, whether in academia or outside it.

Happily, I have now had the opportunity to use my new knowledge of accessibility and the software skills I polished to help others in the Brandeis community. In my role as a Digital Assistant this semester, I have already found myself drawing extensively on my skills with Word, Acrobat, and HTML to ensure that syllabi and LATTE pages are accessible. Without the experience that this internship provided to me, I would not have been nearly as prepared to approach these tasks, and so I am very grateful to have had that opportunity. I am therefore also confident that no matter my career trajectory, the skills and experiences this internship provided me will be useful in ways that I might not yet be able to foresee.

What advice do you have for current students who might be interested in a Higher Administrative Internship?

I would highly recommend any current graduate students to apply for one of these internships. They represent a wonderful way to gain experience working as part of an organization and to learn what working in higher education can be like. These internships also offer many ways to build both hard and soft skills that they will be able to add to their CV and use in future positions, whether in academia or not.