By Brennan Atkins
Throughout this Spring semester, Halcyon Mancuso, English professor and director of the Mancuso Humanities Workforce Preparation Center, distributed “surprise” stipends to several arts and humanities interns to provide a much-needed economic relief during these unprecedented times.
Mancuso has been determined to acknowledge the hard work interns have been displaying and wants students on campus to know how an internship can provide life-changing opportunities.
“It’s [an internship] one of the most important ways that students get professional experience before they graduate,” Mancuso said.
Internships can also give students in the job market a competitive edge over others seeking the same position. Mancuso said, “Even if you went to the most elite university, if you don’t have professional experience and you are competing with other students who do, you’re going to lose out.”
Mancuso added an internship can provide connections, making the prospects of a first job much more likely than the opportunities provided in a traditional academic course.
The Center was approved by the Board of Trustees March 24, 2020, and aimed to connect students with local businesses and opportunities, on and off campus, to show the values of arts and humanities within the workforce.
While some unpaid interns were awarded stipends via application, Mancuso also surprised those participating in an unpaid course-credit internships with a $1,200 stipend for the work they’ve performed in their spring internship.
“We just sort of surprised them. ... We said, ‘Hey guys, we’re gonna pay you stipends of $1,200, surprise, surprise.’”
Junior English Major Eli Pare said they were not expecting to receive the stipend, and said it felt good to be recognized for their hard work.
“My first reaction was complete shock. I had no idea that there would be any money involved with my internship, so the news of the stipend was a pleasant surprise,” Pare said. “It was incredibly rewarding to be recognized for my work in this way, and I greatly appreciated the Mancuso Center’s generosity.”
Senior English Major Soren Colstrup said upon receiving the stipend news, he was both ecstatic and shocked at the generosity of Mancuso.
Senior English Major Ashley Wall said, “I was really surprised when Dean Cote emailed me saying I had been awarded the stipend. I expected my internship to be for academic credit only. So, it was a nice surprise and I am very appreciative that I was selected as one of the students who received a stipend.”
Senior English Major Jared Graf said, “I was surprised to receive the stipend – I had no clue I was going to get it. I checked my email one day and saw Dean Cote told me I’d be receiving money for my internship. It definitely feels good to be rewarded for my work this semester. So, I’m very appreciative of Halcyon Mancuso.”
The internships in which recipients earned their stipend included a wide array of arts and humanities professional opportunities which allow students to learn more about the workforce.
Pare said, “My internship was with the Kit Marlowe Project, which due to COVID, was entirely remote. The three major projects that my site advisor, Professor Kristen Abbott Bennett, asked me to work on were the Mini-Archive, the Digital Resources, and the Games & Quizzes.”
They said they revised all of the posts in the “mini-archive” portion of the site, editing the section for both content and layout. They also said they added to the “Games and Quizzes” section, creating a quiz based on Christopher Marlowe’s “The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus.”
Colstrup said, “My internship was for the FSU communications department, and it was a publications internship in which I covered weekly events and wrote an article for publication under the supervision of Dan Magazu. It was a great experience – it helped me sharpen my craft a lot as a writer. I learned a lot about how to find good ledes for a story, which is something I, and many writers, struggle to do.”
Wall said, “For the spring 2021 semester, I worked with the University’s Odce of Marketing and Communications as a social media intern. This internship was a combination of remote and in-person tasks. For this internship, I worked for Christina Casinelli, the Office’s social media coordinator to work on – and also create – University campaigns.”
She also worked on two campaigns in which she asked vaccinated members of the FSU community why they got the vaccine, as well as a “What FRAMily means to me” project.
“I worked on a number of individual projects such as creating informative Instagram stories and highlights to show how the University has adapted to COVID-19 through testing, mobile ordering, and updated Athletic Center protocol. I did some research on the pros and cons of creating a University TikTok, and I took campus photos to update the University’s social media cover photos,” Wall added.
Graf worked as a journalist for The Bedford Citizen writing stories and attending editorial board sessions. “During my few months at The Citizen, I did everything from covering town meetings to writing a series of feature stories about a Guatemalan woman in sanctuary at a local church. I really enjoyed working with my supervisor and everyone else at the newspaper,” Graf said.
On top of everything students learned at their internships, they have also learned important
information regarding their professional fields and their individual career paths.
Pare said, “I definitely gained professional skills working on the Kit Marlowe Project. Editing for viewer accessibility and enjoyment has really strengthened my ability to communicate using web-based content and platforms – especially while working on the Digital Resources page.
“This experience has definitely solidified that I want a career not only in academia, but in the digital humanities as well. I think using modern tools like the Kit Marlowe Project to make academic resources more accessible is an essential part of the evolution of the scholarly world,” Pare added.
Colstrup said, “I believe I gained a ton of experience and feel much more confident entering the job market. This internship opportunity, paired with producing articles for The Gatepost, has made me feel much more confident in my ability to handle tasks and meet hard deadlines in a relatively short amount of time. I feel it was a great experience.”
Wall said, “This internship has definitely helped me to narrow my focus and interests. I really enjoyed the work I did this semester and because of my internship experience, I am very interested in pursuing this career path in the future.
“Working with Christina has helped me better understand the work it takes to run a University
Instagram, and how different departments intertwine in order to create a cohesive sense of community and values for followers. I am very thankful to Christina for teaching me all that she has, and for helping me grow as a critical thinker, communicator, and collaborator,” Wall added.
Graf said, “I definitely learned a lot from my internship. I noticed an improvement in my interviewing and writing skills as I was practicing both multiple times a week. I also got much better at organizing my thoughts and paying attention to detail.
“I knew I wanted to work in the journalism Keld beforehand, but my internship made me realize how much I enjoy feature writing and editing. After graduation, I’m hoping to write for a newspaper or magazine, so that’s my current career path,” Graf added.
Mancuso also noted there may be potential barriers which prevent students from participating in an internship. She said the Mancuso Center has been focused on trying to address particular equity issues to reduce these barriers.
The Mancuso Center offers stipends for three different kinds of internships: “micro” internships, “mini” internships, and course-credit internships.
“Micro” and “mini” internships are offered as they address students’ concerns about not having enough time to complete a typical course-credit internship. “Micro” internships range from 0-30 hours, while “mini” internships range from 30-60 hours per semester.
Course-credit internships are typically 160 hours of work each semester and require an advisor. These internships take place both on and off campus. Internships of this variety are not always paid, which may result in a student missing a beneficial career path opportunity due to financial-related reasons.
Throughout this academic year, the Mancuso center has been able to fund 12 course-credit internships, as well as two “mini” internships.
“We set up three diPerent types of internships because it really addresses an equity issue and we at the Center want to be very mindful of equity issues,” Mancuso said.
“So, if there’s a student, for instance, who is more in need of a stipend in order to do an unpaid internship, and the client site doesn’t pay, then we would certainly give those stipends to those students first and foremost,” Mancuso said.
Desmond McCarthy, English professor and assistant director of the Mancuso Center, said, “Internships are essential. Internships have become what a union card used to be a half century ago – something essential for many people to gain access to the workforce.
“Internships allow people to learn about specific careers and to have an opportunity to determine whether their assumptions about that line of work are correct. Sometimes, an internship can be just as successful if a student learns they’re not as interested in a particular job as they had imagined as an internship in which a student learns they really love that line of work,” McCarthy added.
Mancuso said being able to provide interns with financial ease brings her joy.
“I love doing this kind of work. It makes me feel great to help students with something that is super important these days,” she said. “The goal is to really make our humanities division a model for academic rigor as well as career-prep rigor,” Mancuso said.
“So hopefully, if the FSU humanities division gets recognized as a really cool place to be a major, and you get real world experience, and they help you find these [opportunities] and they will do stipends for you. I mean, we might get more people majoring in the humanities, which we need in the world right now,” Mancuso said.
[Editor’s Note: Jared Graf, Ashley Wall, and Soren Colstrup are members of The Gatepost.
Desmond McCarthy is the advisor for The Gatepost].