by Noah Pace, English Department Staff Writer
As we’ve already seen, faculty explained that internships give students an edge in the job market, and teach a wide range of skills that can’t be learned through coursework alone. Internships also look really impressive on a resume, demonstrating to employers that potential hires have the drive to apply themselves in a non-academic environment.
It’s clear that our English faculty sees the value in pursuing an internship, but what do interns themselves have to say about the process? I reached out to current and former UTC English interns to get their thoughts on their time in the program.
The interns I talked to generally expressed some surprise at the range of projects they were involved in during their internships. As David Haynes, recent UTC alum and Programs Intern for the Southern Lit Alliance remembered, “I was responsible for coming up with social media content for a lecture series featuring up-and-coming authors. Then, I started branching out to writing press releases, assisting with event coordination, obtaining information for fundraisers, and much more!”
Haynes emphasized the importance of his professional writing and communications skills, both of which were thoroughly honed during his time as an intern. He had the chance to practice these skills doing something he loved, too, because the Southern Lit Alliance supports the Chattanooga community by sponsoring major literary events in the city. “It was amazing just to work with an organization that I genuinely believe can help change its sphere of influence for the better.” Following his graduation, Haynes decided to continue his work for the organization as a volunteer with SLA.
Trevor Harper, current Media/Writing Intern for Chattanooga Organized for Action (COA), is learning a skillset just as broad, explaining, “My duties include writing publications such as blog posts, grants, and press releases as well as designing their website and newsletters. There’s a lot more diversity of work than I had originally imagined; things I never thought would fall into the scope of an English major.”
COA is a community-based nonprofit centered in Chattanooga that promotes grassroots political movements in and around the Scenic City. Harper’s responsibilities also include contacting local politicians to hear their stances on certain issues. Because of his direct involvement with COA’s work, Harper feels like an integral piece of the puzzle, stating, “I actually feel like a part of the organization and that the work I do makes a difference.” English majors in UTC’s internship program seem to have a certain passion for their work.
Each intern also highlighted the amount of on-the-job experience they gained as part of the program. Conni Boykins spent her time as an intern working with the Patten Group, a Chattanooga-based investment firm. She spent much of her time working with Portfolio Managers (PM) who would indicate the names of publically traded companies which Boykins would produce reports on, sometimes determining whether the Patten Group should or should not invest in them. Valuing her internship as a learning experience, Boykins said her favorite aspect was being able to combine her love of language and rhetoric with the finance industry. “I was initially an accounting major in school, but later switched to English, which had always been a passion of mine. I guess the biggest challenge is that, despite my minor accounting background, the finance industry was one that I was largely detached from when I started work here. I knew the basics, but have never really delved into the industry with the seriousness and depth that this work required.” Boykins made it clear that her time as an intern provided valuable real-world experience she would not have received otherwise. She now works for the Patten Group full-time as the Grant Development and Research Coordinator.
Haynes candidly revealed that working professionally in a non-academic environment can be a little nerve-racking at first. “When asked to write a press release for the first time, it was very easy to panic,” he said. “But, my bosses were supportive, encouraging, and offered some of the greatest advice.”
Ashley Branam showed that some experience can be earned even before joining the internship program, however, and then cemented with the proper internship. Remembering her time as a student, she said, “I knew I didn’t want to teach English, so I was mostly excited for the opportunity to investigate other career options. I had taken Dr. Lauren Ingraham’s Grant Writing class the semester before, but I wanted additional experience in the field to see if I enjoyed grant writing enough to pursue it as a career. And as it turns out, I did.” As an intern, Branam worked as a Grant Communications Intern at the fund development firm Skye Strategies, researching census reports and other data, creating profiles for prospective clients, and editing documents. Her grant writing experience from Dr. Ingraham’s course transitioned well into her internship position. This shows how important it is for students to choose courses that interest them and develop that interest with on-the-job experience.
Reflecting on the internship program itself, Harper expressed thanks to Dr. Lauren Ingraham for helping him find a position he loves at COA. “I actually didn’t really know what internship I wanted to do starting out. I just needed one.” It’s clear that students don’t need to have a specific career in mind to benefit greatly from an internship; it is always possible to match the right intern with the right position. Given the chance to offer advice to potential interns, Harper encouraged looking into the program as soon as possible. “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t have waited till my last semester to start my first internship.”
Boykins shared this enthusiasm. “If you’re thinking about joining the internship program, then do it. The experience will be invaluable. At the very least you’ll get real life job experience to put on your resume, but I truly believe you’ll get so much more out of the program.”
The English Department offers all of its students who have a minimum 3.0 GPA in their major a chance to apply for an internship. You can find more information about internships here.
Noah Pace is an intern serving as the English Department’s Staff Writer and Social Media Coordinator. He is a senior English Major with a Minor in Communications.