From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on 12-17-20:
When intellectually curious students congregate in culturally vibrant areas, magic happens. Fresh talent amplifies the vibrancy, and students acquire experience by immersing themselves in local businesses and nonprofits.
New College’s Sarasota-Manatee Arts & Humanities (SMAH) Internship Program, launched this fall, builds on this symbiosis. With help of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this initiative allows students to pursue paid internships in the bi-county region – in fields such as education, youth outreach, fine art, theatre, social media, video production and web development.
“This is the first time anything like this has been offered at New College,” said Madeline Heath Tympanick, the assistant director for New College’s Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO), who helped launch the program. “What’s really cool is that this program is completely driven by internship projects submitted by community organizations. The projects are reviewed and selected by a committee of faculty and CEO staff. The result is an exemplary model for best practices in community engagement through internships.”
The resources of the SMAH Internship Program allow students to make professional connections for post-graduation success.
“This mutually beneficial program focuses on nonprofit organizations that often do not have the funds to pay for interns. Such organizations often do not offer internships or offer only unpaid internships. Although well-intentioned, either case tends to screen out students with financial need,” Tympanick said. “The grant allows us to fund the organizations in order to pay the interns for their work, while the interns will also be able to enhance their skills, make connections and test out careers of interest.”
Bill Woodson, New College’s dean of outreach and engagement and chief diversity and inclusion officer, oversees the Mellon grant and said he believes a program like this greatly enhances New College’s relationship with the surrounding community.
“I think every public institution has an obligation to serve the community of which it is a part. Such service enriches the student experience and justifies the public funds that go into helping a college operate,” Woodson said. “Moreover, Sarasota-Manatee has one of the most dynamic arts communities for a region our size. We have an amazingly rich range of arts organizations and nonprofits and, for students who want to get some practical experience while engaged in things that speak to their interests, it’s fantastic.”
A particularly fantastic example of an SMAH internship for New College students is the one with WSLR 96.5 Community Radio – a grassroots, low-power station in downtown Sarasota. The station has involved more than 100 New College students in its programming since its inception in 2005. This year, four New College students have comprised the core of the station’s news team: Danielle Campbell, Omar Guerrero, Becca Hadwen and Jacob Wentz.
“When students feel their voices matter and that people are listening, they’re more likely to ask critical questions about the world around them and become more engaged citizens,” said Arlene Sweeting, the co-founder of WSLR and the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center. “By learning the ins and outs of production – which stories are told, what gets cut, how to create balance, and how to fact-check appropriately – students gain media literacy firsthand and become responsible media makers.”
Campbell, a second-year student of urban and international studies at New College, found the SMAH internship especially rewarding. She connected with elected officials, area activists and concerned citizens in Sarasota to create programming that mattered to her.
“It’s been so important for me to engage the community, especially right now. If I can report something that impacts the community socially and politically, it’s very valuable, and people need to hear it,” Campbell said. “When people see themselves in what you’re writing, that’s when they feel closer as a community.”
Guerrero, a political science thesis student, also interned, producing weekly stories for the “Critical Times” radio show, writing articles for the quarterly Critical Times newspaper and helping with content distribution.
“I have always wanted to engage in journalism in some capacity. I also think community radio stations are very valuable for the community they’re embedded in, which made it easy for me to want to work hard at the internship,” Guerrero said. “There’s a lot that happens in Sarasota weekly that I think the larger community might not know about. One can read the news and learn about messed up things abroad or in another state, but the truth is that politics and social issues also play a role at the local level.”
Wentz began covering the local angle after graduating from New College in May with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and economics. With his Fulbright Scholarship postponed because of the pandemic, he was grateful to find a creative outlet at WSLR, and his stories focused mainly on how COVID-19 has affected the Suncoast.
Hadwen, a third-year sociology and Spanish student, completed two internships before being hired as a part-time news coordinator at WSLR. She reports on local stories, hosts weekly news team meetings, helps train new members of the team and produces the Friday news broadcast.
“WSLR is a unique opportunity for students because you can get right on the radio. You get immediate, hands-on experience that you can’t get at other news outlets, at least not in an entry-level position,” Hadwen said.
Sweeting has always appreciated the unique connection WSLR and New College have shared, and she looks forward to many more collaborations.
“The students have learned so much throughout the course of the internship,” Sweeting said. “Watching them grow and hearing them improve their storytelling skills from week to week has been extremely rewarding for me.”
It is extremely rewarding for us at New College, too, to watch our students enrich the larger community of which we are a part.