Summer intern Fatema Mun reflects on her time with PA Humanities
By Fatema Mun
You’ve probably crossed paths with PA Humanities before, and just haven’t realized it.
Maybe it’s your local library, or your favorite museum, or the theater downtown. The humanities are all around us, and PA Humanities is bringing them to every corner of the state.
This summer, I worked at PA Humanities as a Communications and Development intern. The week before I started my internship, I attended an orientation program alongside other Haverford interns working in Philadelphia this summer. We visited different organizations across the city and learned about their work.
That Monday, we met with the folks at Norris Square Neighborhood Project, a partner of the Resistance Garden project with the Painted Bride Art Center. The next week when I began my work, I discovered that the Resistance Garden I had just visited was one of the many projects all over the state supported by PA Humanities’ SHARP grants.
I would soon realize just how prevalent PA Humanities’ work is throughout the state.
I didn’t truly know what the humanities were until I interned at PA Humanities. My summer at PA Humanities taught me that the humanities can be everywhere and anywhere, from the big city right down to our local communities. And in a post-pandemic world, the humanities aren’t going anywhere; in fact, we need them now more than ever.
Since the pandemic started in my junior year of high school, my professional career has been confined to a laptop screen. I had never sat down for a job interview at an office, or attended meetings in a conference room. My workplace has been my bedroom desk for the past two and a half years. So when I started applying for summer internships through Haverford College’s Hurford Center for the Humanities, I wondered how I’d adjust to an in-person office experience after being stuck on a Zoom screen for so long.
Luckily, PA Humanities gave me a hybrid work experience that brought me the best of both worlds. On my first day on the job, I attended a staff meeting in the office where I got to meet everyone at PA Humanities over lunch. We started with an icebreaker question, “What’s on the top of your bucket list?”, and I started getting to know the staff right away. The humanities were present right there – in the human connections I made with the people around me. And even on my virtual days, that connection wasn’t lost. The welcoming atmosphere made me feel like I was right there with my coworkers despite the screen in the way.
That’s what PA Humanities is about — connecting the human to the humanities. As I became familiar with the work that PA Humanities does, I saw the importance of these connections in our everyday lives. In June, I attended a Zoom webinar with our grant recipients, who shared ideas on how to bring back our audiences as our organizations returned to in-person programs. Despite being in completely different areas and fields, it was so cool to see how each organization was able to connect with one another and brainstorm great ideas for post-pandemic recovery.
This summer, I got to work on marketing for our new podcast, We Are Here. As someone who has always wanted to work on a podcast, this was a really exciting opportunity to see the behind-the-scenes action. I got to go to the studio to watch the recording of the intro episode with Dawn Frisby Byers, and we talked to the producers about all the fascinating things we could talk about in the podcast. We Are Here is highlighting the cool work our PA SHARP grantees are doing, from sci-fi farm performances to mural preservations. Being involved in this podcast showed me how diverse the humanities can be, and how organizations across PA are working to engage people.
PA Humanities works across every district in the state, and as part of my work on the development team I tracked grant activity across districts in order to show local representatives the work we’re doing in their regions. I also researched grant foundations for areas all across PA. For me, finding these local grant foundations put into perspective the impact we can have in Pennsylvania. It’s not just about hitting the biggest cities, it’s about reaching everyone in the diverse state of Pennsylvania, including BIPOC communities, rural and urban populations, and the young and old.
Some of the different programs we do at PA Humanities include PA Heart & Soul and Teen Reading Lounge. In June, I got to join a Teen Reading Lounge session over Zoom and talk to the teens and facilitators there. Some of the teens I talked to mentioned how helpful TRL has been to them, allowing them to be “more comfortable on Zoom” and “get more talkative and less reserved”. By giving teens this space to lead conversation, it’s a great way to get them engaged with books, even over Zoom. I also got to talk with Youngsville Heart & Soul about how they have engaged their youth for an article on the PA Humanities blog. It was amazing to see how we are helping kids be involved in the humanities all across the state.
One of the biggest projects I worked on was marketing and promotion for PA Humanities newest initiatives, In the Room. When sending hundreds of emails to various schools and organizations didn’t pan out, I began to research digital marketing strategies with support from the communications team. From attending webinars on Instagram ads to reaching out to Tik Tok influencers, I got the chance to learn about the world of non-profit social media marketing as well as the modern digital audience. I also got to make some exciting videos for the Instagram page.
I’m grateful that I got to be involved with the work PA Humanities is doing this summer, and that I had the chance to learn about the amazing work humanities organizations are doing across the state. Despite virtual barriers, the humanities are strong in Pennsylvania and they’re doing great things here. Although my internship is ending, I know I’ll still come across PA Humanities, whether I’m walking around Philly or around campus, because the humanities are everywhere and anywhere.