I have actually learned a huge amount these past few months and am really grateful for my time at CDF. One of the coolest things about working here has been getting to know Marian Wright Edelman quite well. I’m now only one degree of separation from Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Hillary Clinton, and even random people like J.J. Abrams and Reese Witherspoon. MWE is a fascinating person and a force of nature.
This upcoming semester I’m going to maintain contacts with CDF as I try to bring their newly-developed fellowship program to Dickinson’s campus.
It’s been a weird summer but it’s also been really fun and really productive!
Ever since my supervisor, January, has been gone from CDF, work has been a little confusing. For a few days the fellow comms interns and I were relocated to another part of the office. We took some small assignments to complete from Mrs. Edelman and began working on them. We then returned to our original places on the fifth floor and started taking miscellaneous assignments from supervisors in other departments. A few other co-interns and I have been working on a research project surrounding youth homelessness for the National Executive Director.
The thing I am most proud of since coming to CDF is the presentation we were able to give this past Thursday. All five of us comms interns worked together to create a presentation on how to improve our website, Twitter and Instagram presence, merchandise, and fundraising and outreach systems. We all worked to create a mock website to demonstrate what we could do to improve ours, wrote up a Twitter style guide, created mock Tweets and Instagram posts, we also created examples of better merchandise and made concrete, simple, and actionable recommendations for improvement overall. We presented all this to the Director, the Director of Community Engagement and Outreach, and about seven other people. They seemed to find it persuasive.
As a consequence of our presentation we were given general control of the Twitter account for this, our final, week. We still have to run the Tweets by someone else before we post them but we’re able to engage in a much more effective way and are finally getting to do work that we’re proud of and excited about and actually intimately involved with.
Although it’s been a stressful transition from working under January to working independently it’s definitely been worth it and has been an exciting change.
This past week was the event I’ve been working towards ever since I came to CDF. I finally got to meet people who I’d been emailing and everyone was incredibly gracious and kind. It was really gratifying to be able to finally see what I’d been working towards and how valuable and powerful Proctor is to some people.
Each day there were several different speakers who were absolutely amazing. Many of them were young and they all talked about the need to take action now. They talked of the need to stop intellectualizing problems and actually start working to solve them. One speaker said something that particularly struck me really and will stick with me going forward; he said, “it’s time to put the pen down and put your shoes on. It’s time to go to work.”
During the sessions with speakers, the fellow comms interns and I had to keep our ears open for memorable quotes and live tweet them. It was a pretty exhilarating experience to have to stay completely alert and focused on what the speaker was saying and to send the quotes out at such rapid fire.
Overall, however, it was a very stressful week, very hot (it’s hosted in Clinton, TN), and disorderly. It was a valuable experience though because I learned a bit more about what does and doesn’t help to make a large event such as this one succeed.
The event that I’ve been working on for the last month is fast approaching. As a result, there have been a lot of loose ends that need to be sorted out and lots of flailing around trying to get promotional materials finished, the program book finalized, getting the last-minute registrants into the system, and figuring out complications with our online system. My supervisor has been under a lot of pressure and it’s been putting a strain on everyone and our inter-office relationships.
I’ve been trying not to be hyper-critical or gossipy, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that the past week has been a good lesson in what are appropriate Vs. inappropriate ways of handling stress and disagreements in the work place.
I’m excited to travel to Tennessee and to work at the event and see what it’s like in action, so I’ve been trying to keep that in mind as things become more intense back at the office.
We’ve had two additional brown bag lunches since the last one I wrote about.
It was sitting in the first one, as the speaker spoke about the importance of well-written, smart, effective policy and connecting it with people and action, that I thought of getting a Masters of Public Policy.
It was during the second talk, that the idea of getting an MPP started to seem like not such a good idea. The speaker was a lawyer, and he mentioned the fact that being a lawyer can be helpful for many different careers, not just actually being a lawyer. For example, he said you could work in public policy. So, during the Q&A I asked him what the benefit to getting a law degree as opposed to an MPP is. Would I run into walls as just a layman with an MPP that I wouldn’t run into as a lawyer? Basically the answer was yes. But to be fair, he was a lawyer, so I was only hearing the reasons why not to get an MPP, not any of the reasons why it might be worthwhile. My father, uncle, aunt, brother-in-law, sister-in-law are all lawyers and I’ve never wanted to go to law school. Now I’m wondering though…
I asked my brother if he knew anyone with an MPP. He said he had a friend that had gotten one and worked in a think tank right out of graduate school for a few years but now was working (quite successfully) as a freelance journalist.
In the third and most recent brown bag lunch we got to speak with an author and journalist named Nick Kotz who has been in journalism since the early 60’s. I used to always want to work in journalism but finally determined that was too unrealistic a goal. But now I’m beginning to think about it again. Initially, working here was helping to narrow my scope and focus on what my career would be, but now it’s widening again and that can be stressful. Too many choices leaves room for more wrong decisions.
Maybe as the summer continues though I’ll begin to have a better sense again.
One really enjoyable thing about working here is getting to be politically involved for work. We’ve been to a medicaid rally, we took to the streets to ask people if they would be interested in learning more about a workshop CDF is soon going to start to give tools for people to learn how to be more effective in their political activism. This Thursday we’re going to attend a day of action near the capitol. It is a satisfying feeling to know that even when the work I’m doing doesn’t feel incredibly exciting or glamorous I know I’m still helping this organization to function properly and thereby I’m helping work towards a valuable cause. That feeling of satisfaction is solidifying my belief that I want my career to involve working towards causes that are important to me – whether that be in the non-profit sector, in government, think tanks, etc.
I have been thinking especially hard about my future career – especially since I have only one more semester left in school!
Today we had a woman come in to speak to all the interns over lunch. She talked to us about the different windy and roundabout paths her career has taken and and how she got where she is today and then she left time to take questions. It was so interesting just to hear about what it’s like to jump from one position to another and to know that I don’t have to determine what my end goal is just yet. I can start out in one position and end in a drastically different one.
She also discussed the importance of connecting policy to real people and finding a way to make that policy have real and meaningful consequences. Working for a non-profit has been my goal for the last few years, but I was unsure of how to go about actualizing that goal. I didn’t (and to a large extent still don’t) know what my specific role within these types of organizations could be. But everyday I learn new things about this place and about non-profits in general and it helps me to focus my thoughts.
One woman who is interning here with me is getting a masters in policy. When the speaker today was discussing policy as a vessel for societal improvement the thought occurred to me that maybe I ought to look into getting a masters in policy. So, off to research more about that!
Also, today Marian Wright Edelman gave me advice on how to take care of the orchid I have on my desk.
The first several days here at CDF have been relatively relaxed. Everyone here is very nice, always offering to give advice or chat with us whenever we want. On my first day I learned I’m going to be the “Proctor Intern”, which means my primary responsibility is helping to prepare for The Proctor Institute, a week-long retreat/conference the organization puts on each year. I’m the busiest intern on my floor. My main responsibilities are logistical: reading scholarship applications, entering them into the system online, putting their information into a spreadsheet, emailing and calling people if they’ve made mistakes, and coordinating their travel plans. In mid-July this will all come to a head when I’m going down to Nashville, TN to work at the event itself.
As part of the communications department (“comms”, as it’s called here), my other responsibilities are more general. Making a contact sheet to be given to executive members, listening in and taking notes in webinars about social media. I’m hoping my tasks become more creative and that they begin to give me more responsibilities. I already feel like I’m getting a better sense of what it’s like to work within the non-profit sector, which is what I want to do after graduation.
This week our supervisor has been out of the office so things are relatively slow. Hopefully soon I’ll have more substantive work to sink my teeth into.