Interning at WonderRoot, or… How to Find an Answer to “So what are you going to do with that major?”

Averi Waites

Going into my last spring semester as an Anthropology student, I knew my anthropological interests- cultural research, art, and social justice. Needing an internship to graduate, I used those key interests and found the nonprofit organization WonderRoot. WonderRoot works directly at the intersection of art and social justice through using creative initiatives and community partnerships. Their programming includes artist fellowships, public art initiatives, and community dialogues. The opportunity could not have aligned more perfectly with my interests so I immediately reached out. I was taken on as a Programs and Events Intern working under the Programs and Events Coordinator, Nina Dolgin. I really enjoyed my time with the WonderRoot team and always felt that my questions, ideas, and opinions were wanted and taken seriously.

Through my intern program project and conversations with some of the WonderRoot staff I was really able to development myself professionally and focus into what I wanted my career (and life) to look like after graduation.

I had the opportunity to create my own program with the end product being a formal program proposal. I really loved the idea of community members being a part of the art-making process, so I decided to create an intergenerational community-based art program that would pair an older participant who was present during the 60’s Civil Rights Movement, and a younger participant who supports the current Black Lives Matter Movement. Together they would create a new piece of social justice art that incorporates themes from both participants experiences. Research on intergenerational programs showed that programs like this produced confidence in participants, reduced age-related preconceptions, created community, and stressed the importance of connecting art and narrative. With this research I was able to clearly set goals that stated what I wanted the participants to get out of my program. My evaluation methods for successfulness included qualitative methods, much like anthropological research, such as pre and post evaluation, interviews, and participant observation. Assessing the successfulness and whether the goals are reached is important for final reports that need to be given to any funders or stakeholders in the program. I also had to include a program schedule and budget, which my internship coordinator helped me realistically frame and break down. After completing the final document, I felt very accomplished and proud of my work. I always consulted Nina with my ideas, but the program is my program that I get to take with me after the internship. I genuinely enjoyed brainstorming ideas for a program, as well as fleshing the idea out into a detailed proposal.

While I am still finding my place in the social justice journey, interning at WonderRoot really helped me focus my career pursuits. Many anthropology majors know what they love about Anthropology but do not know how to translate that into an actual job. Before my internship, if people asked what I wanted to do with my major (which all anthro majors are used to being asked) I would say something general and unclear, like cultural research at an organization, museum, or academia. Of course, no one really knows what that means and I do not think I really did either. Being at WonderRoot helped me translate my “cultural research” answer to a more confident answer that is much more clear and concise for professionals. WonderRoot showed me that I wanted to conduct qualitative research in underserved, minority communities in order to create meaningful and impactful programs for that community. Focusing and clarifying my career desires has really helped me when searching for jobs, and I was able to very quickly find potential jobs in which I was able to market myself because of my time at WonderRoot. If you are an Anthropology student who knows your passions but has no idea how to make that into a career, I highly suggested taking an internship. Find an organization that closely aligns with your passions, apply, and learn more about yourself- professionally and personally.