Having finished my internship, I have gained valuable insights on the positive and negative aspects of working at a small non-profit. Throughout the summer, there were four areas in which I was most affected developmentally: managerial experience, logistical operations planning, effective communication techniques, and most importantly, a much clearer understanding of social justice issues prevalent in our society.
In regard to the managerial experience, I was consistently working with the Director of Field Operations, ergo, keeping 21 college-aged fellows on track and focused on the objectives. I would routinely shadow fellows out during canvassing or voter-registration shifts, work with them, and make sure their program needs were met.
Similarly, I worked on logistics planning for special fundraising events and alumni gatherings to rally support for the social-justice specific causes the fellows were fighting for, thus I spent many-a-nights booking spaces, arranging transportation, and negotiating catering contracts.
I learned a great amount in regard to open and effective communication techniques, which I will take forward and certainly use both in my professional & personal life. One of my favorite ways of hyping up the fellows (which everyone knew about beforehand) when they were grumpy, tired, and low-energy, was to pick a fellow at random and asking him/her “hey [so-and-so]! Why do you love clams” at which point they would make up an answer, and everybody within hearing-range would clap, hoot, and holler at the answer. It was a tradition in the program, and it was such an effective tactic to not only increase the group-mood, but also to improve inter-fellow communication (and keep them from isolating themselves).
Lastly, I learned about a series of social justice issues which ranged from institutionalized-racism, to the power of words & spaces that we employ/occupy, to historical patriarchy in society, to the importance of recognizing personal identity as a broad and fluid spectrum. Learning about all of these social justice issues gave me a much broader perspective on a number of societal issues, and has left me a more aware person. One example of institutionalized patriarchy which I never considered, but affected me profoundly, was the common practice of addressing multi-gendered groups of people as “guys” (“hey guys!”). I used to say this to groups of men and women interchangeably, and never considered that in saying “hey guys”, I was in practice perpetuating the cycle of institutionalized patriarchy in only addressing the men in a group. Now I make a concerted effort to us more gender-inclusive language when talking to multi-gendered groups such as, “y’all” or “everybody”.
The most interesting component to my internship was the time I spent out working in the field, and the process of assisting with an educational leadership program, which ended up teaching me as much as the fellows. It really made me more interested in experiential learning and social-justice related education.
I would say that, at the conclusion of my internship, I have come away from it with a much broader perspective on issues of identity and oppression, and have realized that although I am passionate about social justice, working in an office environment is not the medium through which I will leave my mark.
Noah Tai Litwer, ’15