Behind the Scenes at 826michigan: More Sequins Are Involved Than You Might Expect

June 22, 2012 | 826 Blog Post

Today on The Staple we turn to Eliza Mathie, who we are fortunate enough to have with us as a special full-time intern this summer. Eliza is a dedicated volunteer tutor and graduate student in English at the University of Michigan. In her time with us this summer so far, Eliza has demonstrated an amazing willingness to do pretty much anything we throw at her — including dancing a box step on the tables in the tutoring lab to Liza Minelli (long story).

Without further ado, Eliza in her own words!

–Editors Amy–

Hi! I’m Eliza, the public scholarship summer intern at 826michigan!

What on earth, you might be wondering, is a “public scholarship summer intern”? Well, I’ll tell you: Every year the University of Michigan sponsors graduate students in the Humanities to work with community organizations, museums, non-profits, educational centers, and so forth, for the summer.

Working with these groups, graduate students get the opportunity to apply their (sometimes rather obscure, but of course also very cool) academic knowledge in the real world, and to see how scholarship and public communities really can and do interact with and benefit from one another.

For example, as a graduate student, I study writing and reading from long before anyone reading this was born, and I think about how people thought of themselves and their worlds in books, pamphlets and plays during the 16th and 17th centuries. As an intern for 826michigan, I use the clear writing, audience-considering, and targeted reading skills I am cultivating in grad school in order to rethink programs that help students write and read and express themselves and their worlds for future generations.

I like to dream that one day, 1,000 years from now, another graduate student will be reading what 826michigan students read and wrote, just like I am doing with people from the 1500s, and I will have been a part of making that cross-era communication possible.

Anyway, this is the first year that 826michigan has taken in a wandering public scholarship intern for the University of Michigan, and so far, I have to say, it’s going swimmingly.

826michigan is a fun, unpredictable, and unique place to work. My main project this summer is to help redesign the Ypsilanti Middle School after-school tutoring program for next year, but don’t be fooled by how straight-forward that sounds. So far, that mission has involved tasks as wide-ranging and eye-opening as writing up official documents for the YMS program, meeting with school administrators and community members, interviewing 826michigan staff and volunteers about their adventures, struggles and successes with various programs, and demonstrating the bizarre way I hold my pencil to a fascinated and slightly skeptical middle school student (I write as though I’m left-handed… but with my right hand. Don’t ask. I have no idea.)

In the past two months, I have learned that the 826mchigan staff is the DEFINITION of teamwork. 826michigan, as I hope you all know, organizes and runs a TON of exciting and creative programs and events. With a small staff, everyone has to be involved in more than one of these projects (and really, who would want to do just one?). This means that everyone at 826michigan is a leader, a teammate, an advisor, and probably also a paper-flower-maker, at different times (or even all at once) during any given week.

826michigan is a simultaneously serious and wacky place to work, which makes for a dynamic environment that you probably won’t find quite anywhere else in the world . . . except possibly at other 826s. I have been learning a lot about organizing programs, about working with wonderful Southeast Michigan schools, and about cutting out names tags in a moving vehicle (it’s a tricky business), and I am learning more all the time!

– Eliza Mathie

Related Posts