After internship, anthropology major Meg Reynolds reflects towards future career

Recent graduate Meg Reynolds has broad interests, and her SBS Internship Award in 2017 helped her explore how they might work in her career path. An Anthropology major with minors in Art and Biology, she interned with the The Resistance Center For Peace And Justice in Northampton, MA. We caught up with her at the end of her senior year, and talked about her experience as an SBS Internship Awardee.

How much was your scholarship, and when did you use it?

The scholarship was for $1,500 and the internship was during the summer of 2017, but the award was applied to my Fall 2017 bill.

How did your SBS internship award help you afford this internship?

The last few summers I had spent working at a café in my hometown, which helped me to make the money I needed for the semester but didn’t help much academically or professionally.

With this award, I was able to accept the internship with The Resistance Center and still have sufficient funding to pay for summer housing and my following semester at UMass.

Why did you intern at the Resistance Center?

I hadn’t had any experience with Anthropology internships up until this point, so I accepted the internship as a way to get a look into what sort of work I may be involved in in the future. I believe having this experience made me a more attractive applicant for other work in my field.

I chose The Resistance Center because they were doing important work – lobbying for Sanctuary Cities in Massachusetts. The internship would not only be interesting to me but could help protect people in my community who might otherwise be forced to leave their families, homes, and jobs because of an unempathetic and sometimes completely unfair immigration enforcement system.

What kind of work did you do at the Resistance Center?

I ended up working on two projects – the Sanctuary Cities campaign and the Massachusetts military spending reports. For the Sanctuary Cities campaign, I had a few responsibilities:

  • I joined The Resistance Center in meetings and demonstrations in Northampton and Boston
  • I created a questionnaire for community members about their thoughts around the topic of immigration to see why some disagreed with sanctuary cities legislation
  • We also interviewed those who strongly opposed sanctuary cities.

The questionnaire and interviews informed the organization of how to direct their efforts (towards which municipalities or which issues), and connected community members who wanted to receive more information to the organization. I appreciated that a large portion of my time was spent actually learning about the Safe Communities Act, Sanctuary Cities, how the local and federal governments work, and about Immigration Enforcement from a different perspective than I would have gotten in a strictly academic setting.

The other project involved looking into federal discretionary spending in Massachusetts. I was reviewing the report and finding out how much money was spent by the Department of Defense and what the projects that received funding were; we now know the companies that received the most defense funding in Massachusetts and have a better picture of how they are involved in the state’s militarization.

How did your UMass education come in handy at your internship?

The Anthropology major taught me above all else that nothing is ever simple and that you always have to consider history and power when judging a situation. Part of this idea of unavoidable complexity is there is never one “right” way of looking at something; while thinking critically about other’s actions and opinions, reserving judgment and continuously interrogating your own perspectives with a willingness to change them is essential.

This vantage point was useful for me when, for example, I was working with people who had different political opinions on Sanctuary Cities than I do. I think it allowed me to:

  • Communicate with, and understand people better
  • Ask directed and unbiased (to the extent that they could be) questions
  • Helped me in unpacking  the responses people gave to ultimately form ideas on why different people, including myself and the people I was working with, understand the issues we were talking about the way that they do

I’m pretty confident that many of the concepts that were central to understanding the campaign: discourse from people on different sides of the argument, as well as the underlying structures that make certain ideas or people powerful over others – would have gone over my head if I didn’t have the background of my coursework.

I believe my Biology and Art minors also came in handy in different ways. Bio labs taught me to use Excel, which I used almost every day but was especially necessary for crunching the numbers on the military reports. Through my minors I also got practice thinking both logically/ linearly and creatively/ interpretively – which was useful in this position as it would be in many.

What do you plan to do in your career now that you’ve graduated?

Immediately after I graduate I plan to take a short break from school – I have a few commissions to finish up with community members from my hometown and will be able to spend the summer mostly painting portraits of people’s grandkids and landscapes of their favorite beaches. I may also either accept a part time internship with the Public Health Department or work on the murals that are going up in my town.

Additionally the summer will involve looking for a job for the next year or two that will help me develop research and communication skills; hopefully in biology as a research assistant, a lab tech, or something related. I love bio but haven’t had the time to practice it outside of a classroom lab setting. I hope to go to grad school once I have more of an idea of how I could get a job which integrates my backgrounds in Anthropology, Art, and Biology. Check back in a few years!

By Alli Pierpont
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