My Internship with… The Minnesota Historical Society

As we’ve already done for study abroad and post-Bethel careers, we’d like occasionally to highlight History majors at Bethel who are in the middle of or recently completed internships. Inaugurating the series today is Anj Thunberg (‘13), currently an intern with the Minnesota Historical Society.

Why’d you decide to major in History? (At what point did you make that decision?)

I had two great history teachers in high school that really brought excitement into history by doing hands-on projects and having in-depth discussions about certain topics. Coming into college I thought I wanted to be a social studies teacher like them so that I could bring that excitement to history as well. After a few semesters in the Social Studies Ed. program, I could tell it wasn’t for me, but I couldn’t let go of the history major I declared along with it. I just enjoyed it too much, even though I had no idea how I could use it down the road.

You’re double-majoring in Sociocultural Studies. How do the two majors fit together? Do you notice similarities or differences?

These two majors fit together in sort of an ironic way. While history obviously looks at the pasts of various cultures or societies, sociocultural studies is more about what life is like today and where it can go from here. I think having the two together, they somewhat fill in the blanks that the other may have. If we are learning about racism and discrimination and how to move forward from there in sociocultural studies, I can usually have an understanding of where or how that racism developed. I think they support each other and help give deeper meaning to the content of each. They both cover so many topics… history with all of its periods, locations, events, etc. Sociocultural studies not only covers reconciliation, but social responsibility, research methods, and a variety of other topics. Majoring in them both gives me background in a lot of different areas.

How do you get interested in working with the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS)? What was involved in getting an internship?

For my sociocultural studies major (SCS), I needed to get an internship this semester. From the classes I’ve taken with the SCS major, I had decided that I would like to work in a non-profit organization someday. With the MHS being both a non-profit and focused on history, I happened to stumble across some internships they had available. I had to apply with an application, cover letter, and resume. I had to come in for two interviews, do a background check, and three references had to be contacted.

Anj at the MN Historical SocietyWhat are some of the things you do as an intern?

At the MHS they have internships in a variety of departments. My internship started out with the Internship Program staff itself. I ran the Facebook fanpage that promotes the program, did administrative work, recruited for summer internships, attended staff meetings, tracked interns, planned and implemented a LinkedIn page for internship alumni, and stayed in contact with some interns to know what they were doing in their positions. When my supervisor was promoted to a different position, I began working with the Volunteer Coordinator. I still have some of the same duties as before, but now I am currently in the process of scheduling the interviews for the summer positions, as well as conducting the interviews for three of the positions. I also am working with the Volunteer Coordinator to secure volunteers for special events through communicating with the event supervisor and the volunteers.

There is also a cohort experience, in which we met with the other interns four random nights through the semester, and we discussed current trends and issues in the museum field. We got to network with them, as well as get some behind-the-scenes access to the museum. We got tours of the state archive stacks, went into the collections in the basement (my personal favorite experience of the internship), went into an exhibit in the process of being built, and got a personal tour of Fort Snelling.

How has the internship connected to your studies at Bethel?

In this internship I don’t work much with history itself. The one connection I have made is the diversity piece. The Internship Program aims to bring diversity into the museum field. My sociocultural studies classes helped prepare me for things such as using proper vocabulary as to not offend others, or how to reach out to various audiences. I haven’t had to use this that much, but it is something that I know to be aware of. One thing I did was edit an article that another intern wrote about her experience with the society that was to be published on the MHS website. In it, she wrote about an experience at a Native American camp. Just to make sure, I looked up the MHS guidelines for proper terms to use, and sure enough, Native American is not proper according to their guidelines. Instead, I had to change the wording to American Indian.

Do you see yourself looking for jobs in the same area as your internship?

Before my internship started, I viewed this internship as a good experience at a place that I loved. I never expected how much direction it would give me when it came to careers. Like I said before, before the internship I thought I wanted to work for a non-profit organization, and I was considering going to grad school for non-profit management. Through the work I’ve done and the cohort experiences, I’ve decided that I do want to stay in the museum field and possibly go to grad school for museum studies. Whether I want to stay with the volunteering side of things is something I’m neutral on, but it has definitely given me experience with program management in general.

If other Bethel History majors are interested in getting an internship, what advice would you give them?

Don’t count yourself out before you even apply. I thought there was no way that they would hire someone with no business or professional experience for this position. I decided to go for it anyway, and look where it got me! Also, being on the side that is conducting interviews, spend A LOT of time on your cover letter and resume. There have been applicants that I had to think twice about simply because the way their resumes and cover letters were written made it questionable as to whether they could handle a job that required fine attention to details. If you get an interview, TALK. There is nothing more frustrating than an interviewee who answers the questions in just a few words. Be polite in emails, whether you are communicating with “just” an intern or an actual employee. It all impacts how the employer will view you to start off with.

Read the next entry in this series>>

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