Jane Gengel

Jane Gengel
Major: Communication
Intern Title: Public Relations Intern, Midtown Greenway Coalition, Minneapolis, MN

Where did you do your internship?
I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Midtown Greenway Coalition. The Coalition is a small nonprofit that works to protect, maintain, and enhance the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis.  The office was located in the Midtown Exchange building (along with the ever bustling Global Market) on the lowest level known as the "Greenway Level" which was essentially on the bike path attached to the Freewheel Bike Shop.

How did you find out about the internship and what was the application process like?
I combed through the Minnesotanonprofit.org job search boards. The process was pretty standard of most internships, a general application, a resume (with references), a cover letter, as well as an interview.

What were some of the highlights?
Where do I start?! I watched as my press releases were published in local papers, the Daily Planet, the Coalition newsletter, social media websites, and community bulletins. I had the opportunity to meet R.T Rybak, lead local schools in greening initiatives, and meet local bands and artists.

What was a typical day like? What were some of your major responsibilities?
A typical day usually lasted about 5 to 8 hours.  I'd arrive around 8:30 and work my way through the Global Market for a hot cup of coffee. Since I was usually the first to the office, I was given a key to open the room up. However from there, my day would vary greatly depending on the next big event hosted by the Coalition. In the time before the Greenway Glow (a giant lighted night bike parade and art festival) I would be out visiting sites, calling on artists, gathering food donations, hanging on to sound permits, and so on. Before our big member drive, I was a media hound. Writing press releases, researching other bike trails (fun fact: The Midtown Greenway was recently named the no. 1 urban bike path in the United States by USA Today), and gathering donations to offer as member sign up incentives. In the down time I would help schools get orientated with cleaning the Greenway or making signs for upcoming events.

What were some of the challenges of the internship?
My greatest challenge came with the Greenway Glow. I truly earned a degree in thinking fast and flying by the seat of my pants. Long story short, a storm the night before sent trees into the bike path, pools of water into every low lying area, power knocked out to several of the sites we had planned. At one point I was even out on the Greenway with a saw in my hand wildly carving away at giant fallen trees! However, if you want that story, you'll need to sit down to coffee with me :)

The most interesting challenge turned out to an aspect of this experience that taught me my greatest strength. I walked into this internship without a true understanding of cycling culture or those people that put their hearts into it. Not having the vocabulary, the mindset, or true knowledge of the kind of person that invests so much into the lifestyle forced me to really research, observe, ask questions, and immerse myself in their world. Thus a consistent challenge for me was learning to tailor my work to several different audiences that I knew nothing about at first. In doing so, I learned that this process is so incredibly important to the work I wish to pursue. I cannot underscore that enough. This wonderfully difficult and infuriating process became my tool belt. The product became my power.

In writing we are taught to be ever cognizant of our audience, to make sure we guide them towards understanding. When writing for the media or PR, I needed to be sure my words would resonate and have an impact with those I'd hoped would read it.

What did you learn?
I must admit that writing about my experience seems like a wasted effort. How could I ever find the words to fully explain how much I learned, saw, and did?  I will show you work published in newspapers, newsletters, posters, signs, graphic designs, website entries, emails, donations, and the callouses on my hands LONG before I find all the words to possibly do my summer justice.

I can summarize only by saying my writing is stronger, my interpersonal skills are more well rounded, and I have a deeper sense of what my desired field entails and how much more there is to it than I first imagined.

What advice would you give other students interested in doing an internship?
Do not let yourself miss the opportunity... make the investment in yourself.

Let me tell you a story:
          I originally applied for admission to an internship program run through our beloved school. It would have allowed me my true desire, travel. Words fail me in trying to explain just how much every bone in my body ached for the opportunity to travel. I threw my heart into the application. I had my resume critiqued by professors that scare the stuffing out of me. I wrote, wrote, and rewrote every single line of my all of work samples. I had meeting after meeting with the directing professors, from which only great feedback was given. I created an entire binder full of rough drafts, edits, and final products of everything twice over.
            I am sure you can predict that I was not admitted, otherwise this story would have a very different ending I am sure. From the moment of rejection, I was absolutely sure that I was doomed and sure I was subpar in every way.
            The feelings only worsened from there. I began to throw my weight into application after application. I endured interview after interview, which I assure you get better after you find your footing. After a few of the "we are looking for a bit more experience" or "perhaps after graduation" lines, my self-esteem suffered under this constant upheaval of the usual "Bennies and Johnnies are always succeeding. Look here, look there, they are most fabulous" rang in my ears.
              When I interviewed with MGC, the interviewer looked me in the eye and offered me the position on the spot. So, walking into all of this, I wasn't exactly sure I could even perform.
            But I cannot convey the amount to which I truly learned about my work, my abilities, and myself. Interning at MGC was not my first choice by any means... but knowing what I do now, I am forever grateful to the Coalition for all that I have received.
            I suppose the moral of my story is, every student will experience feelings of self-doubt. That uncertainty about the future and one's own ability is innately human. Comparing oneself to others brings assured resentment for only one person. It took me some serious rejection and serious self re-imagining to get to this point and I know I am not even there yet. "Keep on going, keep trying" is so infuriating to hear when you've only been met with "no, no, no" from those you so desperately wish would say "yes."
            Yes, Bennies and Johnnies do succeed because the education we receive is great. However, if you read the stories always published on the website or newsletters, you are constantly inundated with this image of a future lit with glittering opportunities and successful endeavors at every turn simply because you come with the name "Bennie" or "Johnnie".  It becomes natural to question yourself when you don't seem to live up to that larger than life depiction.
            My advice, just work for your own betterment. Use your time wisely, double check your work, and be proud of it. Don't compare to others. You are good enough; you just have make the investment in yourself.

 (Fall 2013)