So who are you and what did you do?
I’m Catharine Boyle. I’m an English and Sociology double-major, and over the past year I’ve had three different internships. Last summer, I was an Event Coordinator at the Columbus Zoo, this past Fall I was an intern at People in Need in Delaware, and this year I’m a tutor at the Writing Center on campus.
Wow, three internships in quick succession. How did that come to pass?
I could have graduated last year if I stuffed my schedule, but I didn’t want to. I was still unsure of what I wanted to do post-graduation and really felt that I needed some time to figure out more of my interests. So, instead of overloading last year with extra classes, I decided to stay here for another year and give myself a light workload. When I was planning my schedule, my advisor, Dr. Nancy Comorau, said that I should try to do some internships to help gauge my interests. She told me that having a light schedule would allow for me to find some internships and hopefully get more experience in areas I liked.
That was a cool idea. So how did you get each internship?
Dr. Comorau knew about the Writing Center internship, so she suggested that I talk to the Director of the Center, Martine Stephens. Usually, more than one person does the internship, but I was the only one who expressed interest this year.
The People in Need internship came out of a SOAN course. Last Spring, I took “Social Inequalities” with Dr. Paul Dean and we had to do a service-learning project of 40 hours at a placement throughout the semester as part of the course. I did my placement at Family Promise, which is a local nonprofit. I really liked learning about nonprofits and how they work. My sister, who is an OWU grad, had also worked at People in Need and liked it, so she referred me there so I could continue working with a nonprofit organization.
For the Event Coordinator position, I went to OWU’s Internship Fair. There was a booth for the Columbus Zoo and their head chef was there, and he was trying to recruit me. I had to tell him, “I’m sorry, I don’t cook.” And then he said, “Well, if you’re interested in event coordinating …” All I had to do was email my resume to the person who ended up being my boss and go in for an interview. And now I get free tickets to the zoo whenever I want, so that’s cool.
The Writing Center and People In Need internships are both pretty clearly related to your majors in English and Sociology. Is there a story behind the Event Coordinator position?
I like organizing things. Even growing up, when I was in Girl Scouts, I loved picking what we did and the planning side of it. I’ve had positions in my sorority and on the Panhellenic Council, where I also plan events. I’d actually applied for a few different internships involving either logistics or planning, and even got a coordinating position at a country club. But the zoo was a lot cooler. I guess the animals drew me in a little bit.
What were your responsibilities for each position?
For the Writing Center, I peer tutor. Last semester I did that on Tuesday nights and Thursday mornings. Tuesday nights are walk-in hours in the Library, and Thursday mornings are appointments in the Center, although people can walk in there, too.
For the first half of the semester in Fall, we also had weekly meetings where we studied theories of writing pedagogy and strategies for improving my tutoring skills. Then, in the second half of the semester, I developed a paper proposal to submit to the East Central Writing Center Association’s conference (ECWCA) this Spring. I got accepted, so now I’ll write the paper and present at the conference at the end of March.
Nice! Is the paper related to work you’ve been doing in the center?
Yeah, kind of. I’m looking at peer tutors versus professional tutors. Peer tutors usually just tutor students, but professional tutors do more than just tutoring–for example, they need to know theory, like professors do. I thought it would be interesting to look into which kinds of tutors students prefer and why. I’m researching the Ohio Five Writing Centers and interviewing people about their strategies.
How about for People In Need?
For People in Need I was basically a volunteer, but as an intern I did more than a volunteer would. I helped people navigate the food pantry, which is the biggest thing that People in Need does, and then I would restock it afterward. Every day a lot of people drop off donations, so you have to mark all that down. They also have produce markets every last Wednesday of the month, and anyone can come to those. They would have 15 pallets of food, probably taller than this room, and we hand that out to people for free.
Since there were only six people working at People In Need, there were also a lot of odd jobs that I ended up helping with. So I did a lot of tallying volunteer hours, or going through surveys and tallying the results. The other workers were also a bit, um, older, so sometimes I ended up helping them out with the computer, which is funny because I’m not super good with technology either. One day they got new phones, which was the end of the world. That was pretty funny.
And for the Zoo?
As an Event Coordinator, I worked with anyone who wanted a special event at the zoo, from a company picnic to a wedding to a business meeting. The zoo has six venues where you can have events, and a lot of times people wanted to come and tour the venue, so you would take them through those sites. Then there was helping them figure out food, finding out if they wanted to be able to pet the animals, and so on. After I had all of their information, I would make a room diagram, order linens–all the fine details–all the way through to the end of the event.
What was the best part of each internship?
My favorite memory working as an Event Coordinator was when I got to hold a baby snow leopard. I think that was the coolest because the zoo animals go all over the place–they come to OWU five times a year, and everyone gets to see the sloth, touch the penguin, and so on. But the baby snow leopards were just born, so not many people got to hold them. Two weeks later, they were so much bigger and you weren’t allowed to hold them anymore. But if you were at the zoo at that particular time, and you had connections, you got to see the baby animals. They were so cute and cuddly, and a lot of my family was jealous. I was like, “Ha ha!”
In general, though, I would say my favorite part was when I would ask people all the questions, get all the answers, put everything together, and be the go-to person on the day of the event. You don’t do it alone–with some things, you’re working with the client, and with others you have to get other departments or contractors involved. It was a team effort. But I really liked being in control of how things went.
For the Writing Center, I really liked learning ways to work with different kinds of people, and how different types of people respond to tutors. In my research, I’ve learned that a common stereotype of Writing Centers is that they’re staffed by women. If someone were to come in and discover that they’re working with a male tutor, it might elicit a different response. That’s interesting to me.
The best part of working at People In Need was seeing how happy people were when you would give them something so simple. Working for a nonprofit, you learn you don’t realize how much people are struggling in everyday life. Because I had to tally surveys, I got to read why people came to the food pantry, and a lot of the time it was just some emergency that came up where they had to use their food money for something else. I learned not to jump to conclusions and judge others, because there are other factors than that you can’t see in front of you. That was really eye-opening. I know now that I’d rather help someone else than myself.
Even though these are different positions, it seems like there are some common themes emerging here.
Yeah, I really do feel that they’re similar. They all have a logistical component, and they all involve working with people and helping people.
Since this is an English blog, I have to ask: Do you feel like any of the skills or interests that you’ve cultivated as an English major have been useful to you in these internships? What have been the main connections you’ve noticed?
Obviously writing in the case of the Writing Center. When I was helping others, I would find myself thinking about what this or that professor had taught me, or I would ask myself, “How would this professor help someone with their thesis or the structure of their paper?” I learned that everyone has their writing tics, and that different people struggle with different things. That sounds like common sense, but it surprised me. As an English major, I’m writing seven million papers a semester, but some people may only write one. People have different skills depending on their major, but writing is a skill that you can apply to any major.
At People In Need, one person’s position was a Grant Writer, so he would have me read them over to make sure they made sense. Being able to argue a point was essential.
And knowing how to communicate in general really helped as an Event Coordinator. A lot of it was corresponding with a client that I’d never even met with in person, so knowing how to come across in a certain way or to use a certain tone was helpful. That’s what you get in the English department.
So was your year of internships a success? Do you feel like you have a better idea of what you’d like to do now?
I am still trying to figure out what I want to do, so in a way I guess I didn’t succeed in my goal. But I think I did. Before these internships, I was planning to just go to grad school. Now I realize that I need to take some time to work and make sure of what I want to do. I know more now about what I like, so I’m going to look for jobs in those fields to try to figure it out. Having the internships helped me figure out that I need to take time before grad school, and that was an important realization.
Any parting advice for other English students who are interested in internships?
It is a really good idea to do as many internships as you can. They can help you find out what you like and don’t like. They’re also good real-life experiences–when you’re taking classes, you’re in a bubble, and you’re like, “This is what my life is going to be like.” I found it refreshing to go to these internships–I didn’t have to stress about getting a grade, I was just stressing about who I was helping. I can’t wait to not stress about grades anymore!
Catharine Boyle ’18 is a Kappa Kappa Gamma from Niagara Falls, New York. She once went bungee jumping in New Zealand.