Internship at Hogwarts? Learning the full potential of Communications

Learn about PRSSA Secretary Devin Carroll’s internship experience for Emma Willard School.

By: Devin Carroll

When looking for a summer 2015 internship last year, my sights were set on every marketing, advertising, or PR agency in and around the Albany area, my hometown. Of course, those opportunities that did exist in the area were few and far between, with firms consisting of small teams and little room for interns, especially paid ones. I didn’t think much about all the other opportunities at larger companies in the city, non-profits, and smaller organizations that had their own communications departments in actual need of assistance.

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Last year at a PRSSA meeting, Joann LeSage Nelson and Steve Gonick, came to talk to us about networking and making connections. They both happened to be from the Albany area as well, and I made a point to introduce myself. Steve happened to be on the board of Emma Willard School, one of the most elite all-girls boarding schools in the country with a reputation that preceded itself and a campus that looks like Hogwarts, situated on Mount Ida less than twenty minutes from my home. Although I could not imagine what kind of work they would have for me at such a place, I kept in touch with Steve and he led me to a contact at the school. Before I knew it, the Communications Department at Emma Willard was emailing me asking for my resume and a meeting over spring break. My connection to Steve immediately got me in the door, right before they were going to post that they were looking for a summer intern.

At the interview, I met with the Director of Communications and the two Assistant Directors, one who worked on graphic design and the other who took care of all the social media and writing. They asked me a lot of typical questions and told me all about the things they do in that little office. I was surprised at all the work they did by themselves with their own resources, with little-to-no help from outside Advertising/Marketing/PR agencies. They covered everything from social media to press releases to event planning to advertising and they offered me a position as an intern on the spot, complete with an hourly wage.

For the three months that I worked there, I got my hands on everything I could imagine. Conveniently enough, the Assistant Director who took care of all the social media and writing was out on maternity leave, so the reigns were handed right over to me to fill the void. Within a couple weeks, I was running their Twitter, Facbeook page, and Instagram basically on my own unless I needed feedback. I also got to write news releases on their campusupcoming events, which were published on their website. My supervisors took the time to review my work and give me constructive feedback, while teaching me how to keep my writing true to the strong, girl-power voice and image of Emma Willard. I worked on a selection of other projects as well, including copy-editing different materials like their student handbook and a guide for employees on internal and external communications.

The second half of the summer, when the Assistant Director on maternity leave returned, I was able to focus on skills I still needed to develop. I learned more about design using Photoshop and InDesign which I have never learned in a classroom. Although my skills from classes here at Ithaca really helped me navigate the programs, having the opportunity to design actual materials for Emma Willard that were going to be professionally printed and sent to hundreds of people took it to another level. From event invites to magazine pages to infographics to newsletters, I got to take a stab at it all.

I left the internship with a letter of recommendation that I did not even have to ask for and sharpened set of skills to start my junior year. With that experience under my belt, I am now working as a remote intern for Joann LeSage Nelson, who I continued to stay in touch with. This experience has really opened my eyes to all the different opportunities there are in communications, across all industries and professions, and the importance of making and keeping strong connections.


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