Moviemakers, Major Leaguers, even mummies: LSA students are using their liberal arts education to snag internships that put them face to face with the interesting and unexpected. Above: During senior Joseph Murray's summer with the Traverse City Film Festival, he got to have lunch with director (and festival founder) Michael Moore and chat about Murray's internship and Moore's upcoming film.
Bill Gates had an internship as a congressional page before founding Microsoft; CNN talking head Anderson Cooper was an intern with the C.I.A. before he got into journalism. Many accomplished people credit their success to the skills they gained during their time as an intern—and not always in the same fields they ended up in. We spoke to three LSA students about their unique summer internships, and the unexpected things they learned along the way.
Joseph Murray, a senior in the Program in the Environment (PitE), has been volunteering with the Traverse City Film Festival since he was in high school. He loved what the festival did for his hometown, bringing prestige, celebrities, and throngs of visitors each year. Murray had been volunteering every summer for five years—running concessions, ushering, and managing the children’s activities portion of the festival—when he decided to apply for an internship that earned college credit.
Once accepted, Murray was assigned what turned out to be a vital role: box office intern. Beginning in early June, Murray helped set up activities for festival goers and coordinated food for participating venues. As the opening of the film festival neared, Murray’s operation moved to the headquarters, which he transformed from an empty, cavernous space into the festival’s main box office. There, he set up a complex ticketing system that would handle thousands of ticket sales in the weeks leading up to the festival.
“At one point, on the day before tickets were to go on sale, I was on the phone with an employee from the ticketing company trying to figure out some technical issues, and I was running between about 15 different computers trying to keep up with her instructions,” laughs Murray. “But the feeling of texting my managers when I finally finished, shortly before midnight, to let them know it was done was incredibly satisfying.”
Although his internship was not directly related to his major, Murray feels that he picked up skills he will use in any future career.
“I compare the box office to setting up and running a small business for the summer,” says Murray. “It pushed me to develop my leadership and problem-solving skills in a fast-paced atmosphere. It also encouraged me to look into sustainable business as a possible area of interest.
“I had the best summer of my life with the film festival last year,” he adds. “It surpassed anything I thought I would be doing as an intern.”
As for his next move, Murray’s been asked to return to the festival again this summer, this time as one of its few paid employees.
For Alejandro Zuniga Sacks, who graduated in May with an anthropology degree, an internship with the Baltimore Sun was not completely out of left field. When Zuniga, a journalism buff who wrote for the Michigan Daily and co-managed its sports section, heard the Sun had an intern position for a sports reporter, he knew it would be a perfect fit.
Thanks to a previous internship, he was offered a summer position at the Sun as a sports reporter alongside veterans of the industry like Dan Connolly and Ed Encina. Zuniga covered the Baltimore Orioles, the city’s Major League Baseball team. Before each home game, he would arrive at the field four hours before the first pitch to interview players in the clubhouse.
“I had the opportunity to learn from the best in the business every day,” says Zuniga. “And I got to spend my summer watching and writing about baseball—that’s pretty special.”
Besides honing his writing and reporting abilities, the highlight of his experience at the paper was when he was given the chance to interview a minor league player who had defected to the United States from Cuba. Like the player, Zuniga is fluent in Spanish, which allowed him to be the first person to tell the player’s story to the world.
“The final product was something I’m very proud of, and I think it showcased the improvements I made as a reporter and writer at the Sun,” says Zuniga.
This summer, he’ll be covering baseball for MLB.com, this time with a team a little closer to home—the Detroit Tigers.
Gathering Experience ... and Bugs
Morgan Rondinelli loves science and science museums. That’s why an internship at the world-class Smithsonian was a perfect fit for the junior majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Rondinelli spent last summer at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in the museum’s entomology department, studying parasitoid wasps. There, she helped mount and label specimens and enter that information into a collections database. As a result, she got a firsthand view not only of the insects and how to identify them, but also of the museum’s intricate collection-management process. She also had the chance to accompany researchers on field visits to learn about the different ways in which insects are trapped for collection.
“I think this internship was unique because I got to learn so much behind-the-scenes operations of a really well-known museum,” says Rondinelli. “All of the scientists I met were incredibly knowledgeable about entomology and research, yet were extremely friendly.”
Rondinelli enjoyed working at NMNH so much that she plans to return there again this summer.
“It was an amazing environment where everyone is focused on learning and discovery,” says Rondinelli. “I’m not sure if entomology is specifically what I would like to pursue in the future, but I am definitely leaning toward parasitic organisms and the creepy-crawly.”
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