by Edna Creelman, Haverford College
My first year at Haverford offered me many new opportunities, and when it came to finding something to do over the summer, their resources didn’t fall short. The arts and humanities have always been an area of interest and enjoyment for me, so I looked for a way to pursue that passion while gaining some practical work experience. Through Haverford’s Hurford Center I applied to work as an intern for a variety of humanities organizations in the area. PA Humanities Council seemed to be the best fit for me, and after a zoom interview, I was offered a position there for the summer.
Around this time is when I had been sent home due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but despite the situation, I was still hopeful of returning to campus and beginning my internship in the city. A few weeks of headlines went by, and that hope was replaced with a more disappointing reality. Many internships and summer programs were being cancelled, and I dreaded checking my email with fear of receiving similar news about mine. Much to my relief, I was promptly contacted that the PHC internship was proceeding remotely. My initial apprehension was quickly replaced with excitement- an internship during a pandemic? Not only did I feel lucky that my internship was even happening, but what better way to stay busy during quarantine? (Besides baking too much bread, obviously…)
It was only a few weeks after many organizations began leaving their buildings that my internship started, and to be honest, after only having one course that went “full Zoom”, I was nervous to see how an in-person based office was going to function virtually. Within the first week of working with PHC those nerves had completely subsided. The fluidity of meetings and easy to use scheduling made me confident in the organization’s ability to adapt to the unique circumstances. Communication was emphasized and encouraged at all times, so I never felt awkward reaching out to confirm project specifics or asking questions about something that was talked about in a meeting.
Watercooler moments, Philly lunches, becoming a regular on SEPTA- my internship didn’t provide me with any of these, but learning how to adapt and communicate virtually has been an indispensable part of my experience with PHC. Throughout the past weeks, I’ve worked with the communications, development, and programming departments and took on a variety of projects to help support larger department initiatives. I’ve been closely involved with the Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers program and keeping the PHC team updated with upcoming events and have learned a lot about Pennsylvania’s geography in making visual maps for internal use. PHC created the Pop-Up grants to support humanities organizations launching projects and virtual events during the COVID shutdown.
I have also contributed research on grantmaking by utilizing my background in Excel, and taught myself how to use an infographic program to create a visual for the PHC CARES grants, which was undoubtedly my favorite project. The CARES grants are NEH funded opportunities for humanities organizations in PA that have been financially impacted due to the ongoing pandemic. PHC has greatly improved my independent working skills and showed me how such work relates back to larger group oriented goals/projects. Developing effective time management, self-motivation, and multitasking was a tough part of this remote internship, but after 11 weeks I am much more confident in these abilities and know they will continue to help me as we proceed working and learning virtually.
Another unique takeaway from this internship is seeing how a strong sense of community and the humanities help connect and support people during isolating times like a pandemic. In light of other recent and distressing events, it’s proving to be even more important. The unjust deaths of Black citizens across the nation has emphasized the issues of a country that has been built on centuries of racial prejudice.
The humanities look at our communities, government, educational systems, history, and culture. By examining each with a critical lens and listening to different perspectives, we can begin to address these issues and go forward in a meaningful and equitable way. It was unique to watch both my school and PHC acknowledge some of these structural inequities, and to listen to people of different ages talk about their experiences in a wide range of contexts. Being a part of these conversations have been really important to me as I continue to learn about my privilege as a white college student and the ways I can contribute to an just and inclusive environment.
Business has not been “as usual,” but in some ways, I think a lot of the things I’ve learned have been more valuable because of that. Once it’s safe, I’m eager to visit the Pennsylvania Humanities Council’s Philly office and reintroduce myself in person to the awesome staff I’ve gotten to know over my laptop. This fall I’m also excited to continue at Haverford College and will most likely declare a major in Psychology and minor in Philosophy next spring. Overall, summer 2020 has been one for the books. Working a 9-5 from my childhood desk during a pandemic was definitely not what I had in mind, but I’m grateful that’s what it looked like.