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Women's Studies at Aquinas College

Women's Studies Externships and Internships

Internships

Women’s Studies Internship Bio Juliette Rickel May 2020

I graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology with a Concentration in Counseling and Minors in Women’s Studies and Studio Art. These three different disciplines came together perfectly for my internship at Artist Creating Together, or ACT -- a nonprofit organization which seeks to empower people with disabilities through the arts. I was able to use my major through my engagement with students with various disabilities including Downs Syndrome and cognitive impairments. The connection to my Studio Art minor was obvious, as I was constantly engaging in some creative pursuit or art project alone or with students. I used my Women’s Studies minor to view my workplace and student engagement through a gendered lens. I was able to pull from my knowledge of intersectional feminist theory to analyze the student demographics and community outreach in terms of accessibility and diversity. The way that this internship brought together all of my interests made it the perfect culmination of my undergraduate studies. 

My time with Artists Creating Together, or ACT, was nothing like I had expected when I first applied months ago. In many ways, it was better than I imagined, but I also lost out on many of the events I had been most looking forward to due to COVID-19. When I first accepted the position, I imagined myself going into the community every week in this gigantic mobile art studio to bring arts programming to underserved communities. Unfortunately, I never got to see the Creative Cube in action because all of its events took place starting in the spring. I did, however, still have the opportunity to design special projects for classes, assist teaching artists, and teach students myself in the main studio and at Metro Health Hopital’s Assisted Breathing Center. During my shortened time with ACT, I also was able to observe the unique role of gender in a workplace that had no male employees and how these dynamics shifted when gender was more equally represented during board meetings; the organization had a completely cisfemale staff and a more mixed gender group at Board meetings. I was also able to explore how demographic data was collected and utilized and to propose an alternative method. 

Before ACT had to close its doors due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, I accomplished quite a bit, namely Open Studio curriculum and a demographic collection proposal -- both of which reflected the interdisciplinary nature of Women’s Studies. I had the opportunity to create a curriculum for two in-studio Open Studio classes and one that was put online. For these classes, I was assigned female artists to teach the students and to create projects inspired by their work. The artists that I covered were Lucie Cousturier, Hannah Höch, and Kara Walker. I reached out to one of the professors in the Aquinas Art Department, Madeline Kaczmarczyk, to help conceptualize just how I was going to do these artists justice and bring them to life in a condensed classroom setting. Following her advice, I was able to engage with the students and get them excited about a new artist and style. For my demographics project, I met with Dr. Mike 

Lorr from the Community Leadership and Sociology departments. He gave me insight into how different organizations collect and utilize demographic information to approach outreach from a more intersectional, diverse, and intentional way. I used what I had learned from Dr. Lorr and from my own demographic research to propose a way to increase the diversity in ACT’s outreach as ACT continues to make efforts to improve and grow as an arts nonprofit serving West Michigan. 

My experience at Artist Creating Together was something I will cherish and remember fondly from college years. It opened my eyes to the possibility of teaching or working in a nonprofit one day. The gendered lens I used challenged me to think about the way I communicate professionally and regularly pushed me outside my comfort zone. I am grateful for the opportunity I had at ACT to explore the way all the facets of my degree could come together. My only regret is not being able to see it all the way through.

Women’s Studies Minor Alyssa Noch Researches Women Candidates for Local Office in Internship with Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council 

Aquinas College student intern Alyssa Noch helped maintain the momentum of The Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council’s women's electoral history project over 2019-20 academic year. Noch interned with the GGRWHC for her senior Insignis Honors project in History and Women’s Studies, verifying women recorded as running for office or elected in Grand Rapids and at the state level in the 1920s. To do so, Noch checked databases of digitized historical newspapers through America’s Historical Newspapers and the Library of Congress, particularly The Grand Rapids Press and The Grand Rapids Herald. In her own words, Noch’s motivation to pursue women's history is her desire “to uncover new histories and bring them to light for more modern audiences to enjoy. Men's history has largely been explored. Their journals and writings have been pored over and pondered far more than women's. I seek to help balance this uneven distribution of history and teach people the buried and forgotten history of women, starting at the local level.” Noch’s research certainly brought to light women’s history in the Greater Grand Rapids area. 

Noch’s research revealed women’s motivations for running for office, new biographies of local women, and national contexts for Grand Rapids women’s electoral history. According to Noch, women ran for office less because of political ideologies than a desire to support their communities. Rose B. Pixley and Mary E. Quigley are two of the lesser-known Grand Rapids women who serve as exemplars of women who ran. And Noch’s local research reminds us of other significant national contexts beyond the post-Nineteenth Amendment “Roaring Twenties,” such as the “Get-Out-the-Vote” campaigns, the first Red Scare, the economic slowdown of 1920-1922, and the oncoming Great Depression. 

In addition to these contextual factors, Noch found that, from 1921-1930, fourteen women ran for election, running twenty-three times (not including write-ins or appointees) for one of five different office titles: Library Commissioner, School Board, City Commissioner Third Ward, Third Ward Supervisor, and the Board of Regents for the University of Michigan. During the 1920s, women ran in thirteen out of the nineteen elections at the local and state levels, such that there was roughly a 68% chance at least one woman would be running in an election. On average for this decade, the data suggests that one woman ran in each election, such that two women often ran during an election year, as there were typically two elections each year during that time span. Out of the thirteen elections in which women are recorded as having entered, at least one woman won in seven of the elections. Noch’s analysis revealed that women won less than half the times they ran for office, winning ten out of twenty three offices, or about 43% of the time. 

Noch graduated Summa Cum Laude from Aquinas College in December 2019, with Honors from the Insignis Honors Program, a double major in English and History, and a minor in Women’s Studies. She received the History Department’s senior award and was one of two students awarded the Diane Herbruck Prize for outstanding submissions to the Resourceful Women Conference 2020, an interdisciplinary undergraduate conference on women, gender, and identity sponsored by Aquinas’ Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center. Although the in-person conference was cancelled, her submission will ultimately be archived in a new Library Guide for the conference at the college’s Grace Hauenstein Library

Externships

The Susan Haworth-Hoeppner Externship Program, the only externship program at Aquinas, was piloted in Summer 2015.  Women’s Studies students were provided travel and accommodations to shadow alumnae mentors in their fields of interest, off-campus, over the summer months.  These students’ words capture the practical application, the personal inspiration, and the professional insight the Externship gave them:


Kirsten Fedorowicz Women’s Studies Minor Kirsten Fedorowicz’s Externship
For two weeks during the summer of 2017, I was lucky enough to have an Externship through the Women’s Studies Center. After applying in early March, I received an update in April that I had the opportunity to work with Angelika Lee of the organization Creative Many. Angelika graduated from Aquinas with degrees in Communications and Theology. She serves as the Director of Communications for Creative Many, an arts advocacy organization that seeks to empower creative individuals and the creative economy. The Women’s Studies Center paired me with an alumna and an organization that share my creative and social justice interests, while still allowing me to grow in a professional way. Read More

Lindsey Bacigal, a Communication/Women’s Studies/Insignis Honors student, paired with Nikki Sunstrum, Director of Social Media at University of Michigan, returned to Aquinas with practical applications of her experience:  “I am definitely able to bring a lot of new ideas to the Women's Studies Center at Aquinas as to how we can grow our social media presence and utilize it in the best way possible.”

Jayme Brizzolara, a Psychology/Sociology/Women’s Studies student, shadowed Kelly Bezin-Brinks, a Shelter Assistant at Safe Haven Ministries, who “has become somewhat of an inspiration to me because of how she has overcome some of her struggles. I now have made goals to work harder in school and life because I realize how important it is to be serious about your future.”  Jayme added, “I ended up learning a lot about Kelly and my career path because of this externship.” 

Alexandra Banash, a Political Science, Community Leadership, and Women’s Studies senior who worked with Kelly Dittmar, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, said: “This program has helped me advance significantly as far as academia goes. The level of work I was doing was often at a graduate level, and it gave me a better understanding as to what graduate work is like. [. . . ] The externship has made me anxious and excited about the future not only for myself, but for women in politics in general.”  

Description
The Women’s Studies Externship Program offers students minoring in Women’s Studies an opportunity to explore a field in which they are interested, but about which they may not be quite sure, for a limited period of time in the summer months.  In the Externship, students are paired with sponsors to shadow them in their fields for up to two weeks.  Hence it is an "Ex"-ternship Program on several levels – giving students the ability to assess their fit for career earlier than their junior or senior years of college (when a traditional “internship” occurs); linking “ex”-students with current students; taking place off-campus and potentially outside Grand Rapids; and occurring beyond the typical academic year, for a brief but intense period of time.  

As an initiative inspired by and named for the Center’s previous director, Dr. Susan Haworth-Hoeppner, this Program works to build connections between students’ coursework and career aspirations, as well as between campus and alumnae communities – giving students insights into potential professions and giving Women’s Studies supporters the opportunity to mentor students.  

Application Process
To apply, students must be Women’s Studies minors with a minimum 2.5 GPA and in good standing with the College.  Initial applications are due to the Director of Women’s Studies on the Thursday prior to Aquinas’ mid-semester Spring Break.   Application materials submitted should include:

  • A cover letter with the following elements:
    • rationale for applying to the Externship Program;
    • professional and personal description of yourself -- your academic course of study and your potential career goals, as well as your personal strengths and weaknesses;
    • professions you would be interested in learning more about for a short period in the summer months; and
    • summer plans that you are aware of and any dates you will be unavailable for the Externship.
  • A resume that reflects your background, strengths, and interests, following these guidelines:
    • 2-page maximum, with 11-point minimum font and a .5-inch minimum margin
    • Proofread, with consistent formatting throughout

Selection Process 
Applicants who make the second round of the screening process will be asked to conduct an interview with their potential host before final selection for the Externship.  If selected, participants will be required to agree to Program responsibilities and guidelines for travel; participants will also be required to complete a Self Evaluation and a Program Evaluation within two weeks of finishing the Externship.