Various Ways of Learning: Building Relationships and Developing Practical Skills

I’m Emilee Ruhland, a fifth-year PhD student in the English department, and I spent ten weeks in the summer of 2021 working with the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research, informally referred to as Pitt Research. I am a medievalist, and my research is focused on the recreation of and post-medieval fascination with the Middle Ages. I am particularly interested in the ways in which people like Carl Th. Dreyer, director of La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, reframe the notion of scholarship in a lens that is typically considered “amateurism,” but which medievalist Carolyn Dinshaw refers to as “various ways of knowing” (How Soon Is Now?, 6).

During my Humanities Engage Administrative Micro-Internship with Pitt Research, “Communicating the Pitt Research Enterprise,” my experience included various ways of learning that went beyond just building skills in administrative and communicative roles. At the start of the ten weeks, we had five main objectives: (1) research the social media presence of peer institutions and use that data to implement a social media plan to build Pitt Research’s social media communications; (2) research peer institution newsletters and develop and implement 1-2 new content ideas for the Inside Pitt Research newsletter; (3) attend event planning meetings for the 2nd annual Pitt Research and Pitt Provost Fueling Our Future Funding Showcase, particulars to be determined; (4) video edit “bootcamp” videos from a workshop series that developed tactics for building infrastructure to increase faculty prestigious awards from a targeted administrative leadership in different disciplines to shorter videos that addressed a more general academic audience; and (5) reach out and meet with various administrative staff for informational interviews.

This may look like a lot of objectives, and it was! But beginning with the amount of objectives and retaining a level of flexibility meant we were able to adapt the micro-internship to my skillset and goals. Early on, it was clear that I had the skills for developing Pitt Research’s social media, and we adjusted my role in the Showcase event planning to collaborate with the Pitt Provost’s Social Media Manager (Mr. Sadik Roberts) on a social media campaign for the event. I have held several roles before this internship in social media communications, and yet I had always been the primary communications manager. Collaborating on a campaign was incredibly productive and valuable to my own post-academic plans to work in communications. Our campaign included a custom video and tweets that we developed together. Emphasizing the social media component of the micro-internship introduced a level of continuity and skill-building that will not only benefit my resume, and I am grateful that I was able to pursue this work in such an engaging environment.

We ran into two main challenges during the micro-internship. My supervisor Julie Lalo, communications manager Phoebe Fraser, and I recently met for a micro-internship review and discussed the benefits and limitations of remote work. Remote work lends itself to a flexible schedule, so that I was able to attend a variety of meetings and work an hour here or there. However, there were challenges to dividing the work up into small chunks. The second challenge was the high number of objectives we set out with. While it was extremely helpful in sampling the various hats that a communications specialist may wear in their role, it also meant that the eight hours needed to be divided up into many different goals each week.

The most rewarding aspect of the micro-internship were the informational interviews I was able to secure with people from across the Pitt Research offices. Before this internship, I hadn’t known that offices like the Office for Sponsored Projects existed! Over the course of ten weeks, I was able to meet with people in communications roles, but also the Vice Chancellors and Assistant Vice Chancellors who steer the overall course of Pitt Research. I saw communications goals from the perspective of those doing direct media and communications writing, but also from the perspective of a VC considering the overall Office’s short- and long-term goals.

This internship allowed me to develop the skills I’ve gained as a graduate student researcher and as a communications graduate student assistant at the European Studies Center, as well as build practical skills in developing research and detailed goals for an organization’s communications platform. More than anything, this micro-internship taught me that as graduate students, we are building not just valuable skills for an academic position, but transferrable skills that would apply to a wide variety of positions.

Emilee Ruhland
September 2021
Learn about all the Administrative Micro-Internships.