Reflections on the ASEEES Internship Grant Program
Amid the instability of life in 2020, the ASEEES Internship Grant Program helped me to maintain a sense of belonging and purpose. I worked as an intern at the Museum of Russian Culture San Francisco, where I helped to catalog, preserve, and digitize over a thousand musical records in the archive. Following a number of safety precautions that strictly limited in-person interactions, the internship provided me with the chance to work with rare musical recordings dating back to 1902. Not only did working in the archive help to fuel my dissertation, but I managed to acquire hands-on skills outside of the curricula of my Ph.D. program in ethnomusicology at UC Berkeley. For instance, the opportunity to speak Russian every single day with the museum staff and practice specialist terminology helped me to improve my fluency. It was immensely rewarding to learn about the inner workings of a non-profit organization and give back to the Russian-speaking community in my own backyard of the Bay Area. I can think of no better way to have spent the last few months, especially during a pandemic.
Despite the limitations of the ongoing health crisis, the staff at the museum facilitated virtual introductions with scholars in the field and provided me with numerous opportunities to contribute to their ongoing projects. When I first began the internship, I did not expect that I would have the chance to network with professionals from the Library of Congress, the National Recording Preservation Foundation, and other museums abroad. I had no idea that my photo would end up in the oldest continuously running Russian-language newspaper in the United States, Russkaya zhizn’ (Russian Life). These kinds of experiences helped me to gain confidence as a professional. How often does a graduate student get to voice their opinion on the content of an exhibition, the wording of grant proposal, or the structure of an archive with a museum board? I feel exceedingly lucky to have worked with such supportive staff.
None of this would have been possible without the support of ASEEES and the funders of the Internship Grant Program. Unfortunately, budget cuts, furloughs, and layoffs are a sober fact of life at the moment. As young professionals, graduate students are especially vulnerable to the ramifications of the current downward economic slide. Real world training outside of academia is imperative to our future success as experts in the field. My experience goes to show that taking an internship at a non-profit institution does not have to come at the expense of traditional research. On the contrary, my dissertation has only been enhanced by the materials that I have worked with in the archive and my conversations with specialists around the world. I am very grateful to ASEEES and the Museum of Russian Culture San Francisco for providing me with this opportunity. Any graduate student associated with ASEEES would certainly benefit from this incredible program.
Ryan Gourley, UC Berkeley
Intern at the Museum of Russian Culture San Francisco