Meet Maia, summer intern with PA Humanities

June 16, 2023
Intern Maia Schwallie poses next to an inscription about the power of the humanities at the PA Humanities office.
Summer intern Maia Schwallie, an incoming junior at Haverford College, at the PA Humanities office in Philadelphia.

We’re excited to have Maia Schwallie interning with us this summer at PA Humanities. She comes to us from Haverford College, where she’s an incoming junior English major with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies and a deep passion for the humanities. In addition to being the student life documentarian at the Haverford College Archives, where her work includes conducting oral history interviews with alumni about their time at the school, she’s also a member of the Committee for Environmental Responsibility and the Haverford Poetry Club. A native of Glenview, Illinois, Maia was the opinions editor at her high school newspaper and won a Northern Illinois School Press Association award for Outstanding Opinions Writing. She was also a National Merit Scholar.

Enjoy getting to know Maia better with our Q&A below!

You’re an English major with a love of poetry and storytelling. Whose works have influenced you so far in your life, and can you tell us what you hope to do after graduation?

As an English major and Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, I am often drawn to stories and poetry written by queer women. Poets and thinkers such as Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and Eileen Myles have influenced my writing greatly. The strength of Lorde, the passion of Rich, and the wit of Myles are qualities I strive to emulate in my storytelling and in my life. 

After graduation, I plan to continue working in the humanities, however that may unfold. As an English major, I am often told that my career prospects must be limited, but I have never thought of my major as limiting. Whether I pursue a career in library science, academia, poetry, publishing, or work with another nonprofit organization such as PA Humanities, I know my degree is setting me up for a career and a life I’ll enjoy.

“Chautauqua,” a zine published by Haverford students in the 1980s, is one of many student publications Maia found while working as the Student Life Documentarian for the Haverford archives.

You work as the Student Life Documentarian for Haverford College’s Archives. What is it about archival work that interests you, and what are some of the interesting things you’ve uncovered or learned working with the college archives?

To me, working in the archives is all about uncovering stories, and Haverford College is full of interesting stories. Unique for its small student population, its history as an all-boys Quaker institution, and its relationship with Bryn Mawr College, there’s a lot to explore about past and present student life at Haverford. 

The archived materials I dive into most frequently are photographs, letters, and student publications. Some of the student publications are really interesting. I’ve found news publications from the 1990s addressing hard topics in the Haverford community, such as sexism, racism, and sexual violence. There’s an incredible 1970s literary magazine called RA compiled by Black students at Haverford and Bryn Mawr, and we have countless humor magazines, some dating back to the 19th century, that I often find myself giggling at.

My favorite part of archival work is the perpetual cycle of research and discovery that is essential to growing and maintaining an archive. I often come across things in the archives that make no sense to me at first—a 19th century letter written with cursive I can barely read, a photograph with unnamed subjects— and I love the feeling of researching that letter or photograph until it finally clicks. There are a lot of “a-ha” moments when I’m working in the archives. 

What do you love about the humanities? What made you interested in interning at PA Humanities this summer?

So many tenets of the humanities bring me joy every day. From reading books, to studying philosophy, to writing poetry, I have always loved how vast the humanities are. Without the humanities I would be a fraction of who I am today. I also think the humanities have a unique power to bring people together and spark change for a better future. 

PA Humanities does a lot of great work encouraging the humanities in Pennsylvania communities and I am so happy to be a part of that. When I first learned about PA Humanities, I was moved by how the PA Humanities programs helped communities by using tools that I have always loved. I am also interested in how the humanities can intersect with the nonprofit world, and how the ideas that have interested me all my life can be harnessed at a greater scale to help others. 

What are you most looking forward to learning about this summer with your internship? And what have you been excited to work on so far?

So far, I have loved how diverse my work has been. Some days I’m digging through the archives or helping with event planning, others I’ve been working with communications to develop social media content, and a few times I’ve gotten to go to Pennsylvania towns I’ve never been to before to learn about their communities. Lately, I’ve been reaching out to some of our Teen Reading Lounge locations to set up interviews for a story I will be writing for our blog. I also attended the last Rain Poetry event in Carroll Park, which was a really great event! 

I love poetry and writing, so an upcoming project I’m excited to work on is helping to create a collection of haiku written by kids grades 1-5 as part of the Rain Poetry project. Every day at PA Humanities, I feel like I am learning so many new things about the humanities world, and I really enjoy seeing how the different departments of PA Humanities play such unique but connected roles.

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