Lauren Glennon (’15) Gets a Firsthand Look at Sports Marketing and Management With the Asheville Tourists

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My name is Lauren Glennon and I’m a senior at UNC Asheville majoring in Management with a concentration in Marketing. I’ve always been interested in the entertainment industry and worked several street teaming and promotional internships in music. When I was offered an internship with the Asheville Tourists Baseball Club I jumped on the opportunity to experience the world of sports management and marketing.

I began working a month before Opening Day with a small group of about 15 full time staff members. While gearing up for the season I would sit in on sales meetings about sponsors of the team, seeing first hand how all the sponsored portions of a sporting event come to be. I would also be sent into the community to do grassroots marketing including prospecting local business that would be willing to display promotional schedules for the season or taking the mascots, Mr. Moon and Ted E. Tourist, out to various community events.  One of my favorite opportunities was going to ESPN Radio and getting to voice the commercials for our sponsors that air during the broadcasts of our games!

About a month into the season, I can say that the sports industry is an exciting roller coaster and you have to be prepared for anything that could happen. On a game day there is so much that needs to be done to be ready to open the gates in the evening to up to 4,000 fans.  First thing in the morning I will go set up flags along Biltmore Avenue in Downtown advertising “Game Today”. I will also go through our inventory to make sure the store is fully stocked with merchandise, answer phone calls regarding ticket sales, and prepare all promotional materials that are to be distributed including jersey giveaways, t-shirt gun t-shirts, gift cards, etc.

Once gates open, I supervise a group of employees called the “Jade Bombers” with the Promotions and Community Relations Manager. The Jade Bombers are basically our baseball cheerleaders and energize the crowd as well as execute all of our in game promotions from kids races, t-shirt tosses, and other giveaways. Every promotion is scheduled for a specific moment of the game, whether it’s top of the fifth inning or middle of the eighth.  This part of my job is extremely fast paced; you cannot stop paying attention to the game for a split second or you can miss an event you’re supposed to do. I have been continuing to develop my management skills in delegating tasks to the Jade Bombers to ensure a successful run thru on any given game day.

Through my internship I’m getting a great mix of opportunities to utilize my management skills and marketing tactics. The staff at the Asheville Tourists is great at giving me opportunities to try all different aspects of the sports industry, from allowing me to manage the store, supervise part-time staff, and interact with both clients and customers. They place a lot of trust in me, which I appreciate because it gives me a chance to accept new challenges and rise to the occasion.

My advice to any current students interested in working in sports management is to do an internship, or even two! Almost every single person that is a full time employee at the Asheville Tourists began as an intern and it’s a great opportunity to really understand the logistics of all that goes on behind the scenes. I can definitely say this job has given me invaluable experience in customer service, communication, and leadership that will be transferable no matter where my professional life ends up. I’m very excited to continue throughout our 2015 season!

Talene Dadian (’16) Learns HR Expertise with Biltmore

My name is Talene Dadian and I am currently a junior Psychology major and Management minor at UNC AsTalene Biltmoreheville. Like many students, I started feeling the pressure to get “real world” experience. I wanted an internship and thought HR sounded interesting. However, I had no idea where or what type of company, if any, would even offer this. Thankfully, I spoke with the career counselors at the Career Center and they were able to connect me with an awesome opportunity that I don’t think I would have come across on my own, or even have thought of applying to. This past summer, I had the AMAZING opportunity to intern at Biltmore. Within Human Resources, I specifically interned within Biltmore Staffing Services.

Right from the start, I quickly learned and was treated with Biltmore’s trademark “Gracious Hospitality” that is extended to not only guests, but to all employees. As expected, I was given a multitude of research projects aimed at identifying niche culinary, horticulture, and hospitality markets and job platforms. However, I could not have imagined the amount of actual experience my internship would provide.  I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to be an active participant in nearly every step of the hiring process. From interviewing applicants to hiring new employees and getting all of their necessary pre-employment paperwork and trainings completed, I got to participate in everything!

One of my faBiltmore west sidevorite parts was conducting screening interviews with potential candidates. While initially terrified that I would be the interviewer for a change and not the interviewee, the Staffing Center worked with me to provide training and got me to feel more comfortable sharing details about the positions, Biltmore Estate history, the legal rules of conducting interviews, the types of questions to ask, and what answers to look for. The practice I gained through conducting interviews has been invaluable. I was able to not only see what an employer, such as Biltmore, looks for in a new hire, but I also had the chance to reflect on the way I interview and what I should and should definitely not do in the future.

I also learned about the tedious, time-consuming process of pre-employment onboarding that goes on behind the scenes before a new employee can start work. I was swimming up to my eyeballs in I-9 documents, tax forms, ordering of drug screens, background checks, physicals, scheduling of trainings, and making nametags and employee ID badges, etc. all of which must be completed for each new employee! As overwhelmed as I was at the beginning of all these endeavors, this was an excellent learning opportunity about the processes of staffing any company or organization. Being thrown into a new situation is part of life, school, or any job and I am so thankful that I was challenged to learn new skills and think critically about new processes.Biltmore Fall

Another awesome part about interning at Biltmore was the ability to interview other departments and areas of Biltmore Estate. I had the opportunity to complete informational interviews with the HR Safety Manager, Benefits Manager, as well as the Food & Beverage Manager for the Biltmore House, the Outdoor Center Director, and many other departments. From touring the house, test-tasting the delicious cuisine, interviewing different HR managers, to taking a trip to the west side of the estate to view the winery fields, I got to experience it all. Every moment and interview allowed me to see how staffing fit ibiltmorento each and every aspect of the estate and how interconnected each aspect must be for Biltmore Estate to run smoothly and provide the best guest experience.

I think the biggest challenge for me was wanting to do everything really well and not disappoint not only the Staffing Center, but also myself. The biggest tip I can give to anyone looking for experience with an internship is that an internship is a chance to learn, learn from mistakes, and learn how to quickly address mistakes. Ask questions, say “yes” to new projects. Take this opportunity to learn and challenge yourself!

When I first began my internship, I had no idea what type of Human Resources field I would like to go into. After completing my internship at Biltmore, I have found that I love working with people. Working in a talent acquisition and staffing center would be something I can see myself doing and enjoying as a future career.

Kelly Olshan (15′) Interns at Americans for the Arts in DC

AFTA and Other Acronyms: Reflections on My Summer Internship

Ask a fine arts professional about arts management and most will respond with something along the lines of, “What is that?” At least that was my experience when I inquired about the field at UNC Asheville. Such reactions lead me to believe I was entering the uncharted territory of a highly specialized, obscure field. This is not the case.

AFTA Pose 1Over the summer, I spent two and half months interning at a national nonprofit organization, Americans for the Arts. A complicated and multifaceted organization, Americans for the Arts’ main objectives can be oversimplified into two main functions: 1) assist local arts agencies across the nation with the tools and resources they need to succeed, and 2) advocate for the intrinsic, educational, and economic value of the arts with respect to national and local policy.

Americans for the Arts hosted eight other summer interns: two in New York City, and seven in DC. We each represented one of AFTA’s respective departments; I served as their Local Arts Advancement Intern.

As my title implies, the majority of my work catered to Local Arts Agencies, or community-based organizations that integrate the arts into the daily fabric of their communities. While the description sounds specific, these organizations are broad in scope: they can be private or public, large or small, serve urban or rural communities. There are over 5,000 of them in the nation.

My job was to identify frequently asked questions, come up with questions and answers, and synthesize all the information into something coherent and user-friendly. The goal was to publish the finished content online so that local arts administrators would no longer have to directly contact Americans for the Arts’ staff directly with specific questions; the resources would be immediately available.

In practice, this endeavor consisted of going through hundreds of emails the VP of Research and Policy, Randy Cohen, had accumulated in his inbox—a task that represents undoing over 20 years of assigning mail to respective outlook folders. A daunting amount of data, the complete list includes 94 categories and 60 sub-folders—amounting to a total of 3,586 files. In case this wasn’t enough information, my supervisor and the previous intern had also acquired a collection of relevant questions.

While initially overwhelming, this project served as the most in-depth introduction to arts management a girl could ask for. During the process, I acquired all kinds of new acronyms and jargon. I learned the difference between the creative sector, the creative economy, and creative industry; a Local Arts Agency (LAA), a State Arts Agency (SAA), and a Regional Arts Association (RAA)—not to mention the respective needs, job titles, and resources they require on a national level.

By the end of the summer, I had put together over 20 documents on topics such as cultural tourism, the creative economy, local arts centers, and barriers to arts participation. As the project came to fruition, I worked with the web team to publish my work online. The staff helped determine where these documents belonged on AFTA’s website, as well as whether they should assume the format of a frequently asked question or PDF.

Ultimately, we decided the larger documents, such as a 14-page list of cultural tourism examples by state, would present better as linked PDFS. On the other hand, a more specific question like, “Where can I access funds for touring?” could manifest itself as a frequently asked question under the website’s “For Artists” tab.

Despite reading through his emails every day, it wasn’t until about a month into my internship until I actually met their author. In July, Randy sent out an email inviting all the DC interns to a local pub.  I immediately recognized him as the source of my Never-Ending Arts Data. The event actually carried an official title—Arts Drinking Group, a conglomeration I can confidently say all of us overworked, underpaid professionals are very happy exists.

At the bar, Randy introduced us: the Research Services Intern, an Australian student pursing a dual MBA and MA in Arts Management at SMU; the Animating Democracy Intern, a graduate student enrolled in Carnegie Mellon’s accelerated Masters of Arts Administration program. “You really need to get some interns with some ambition,” remarked Randy’s beer-drinking friend.Arts Drinking Group

Randy was hardly the only staff member who made our acquaintance: over the weeks, we were introduced to the organization’s ten departments and their respective staff members. The Internship Coordinator also organized field trips to Dance/USA, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW).

During the department meetings, each team sat us down in a sleek conference room—windows displaying the tenth floor view of downtown D.C.—to explain to us, in highly articulate language, what it is exactly they do.

Many of these departments had functions and objectives I didn’t even know existed. Or worse: I was familiar with their titles, yet had completely misinterpreted what those titles meant. Take development, for instance: such a vague, optimistic term leads one to think, “Developing what?” The objectives of the organization, I assumed. Instead, “development,” is often synonymous with “fundraising,” which requires strong written and verbal communication skills.

“If you’re not a communicator, don’t go into development,” said Kate Gibney, Vice President of Development. From the head of the table, Kate looked like the epitome of artsy chic as she told us about her career at the Smithsonian, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She said this casually, delivered in the same tone from which she informed us of her college major. Kate’s story was not unusual: so many of AFTA’s staff members had prestigious backgrounds and educations I came to expect it.

Our departmental meetings ran in conjunction with our day-to-day activities. In my case, this involved working under four supervisors on the Local Arts Advancement team: the Local Arts Agency Services Program Manager, my official supervisor; the Public Art Programs Manager; the Vice President of Local Arts Advancement; and the Field Education and Leadership Programs Manager. All of them had different assignments for me to work on.

2014 NAHM “Call for Partners” Instagram Promotion:

National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM ) Promotion

One of my favorite projects involved helping develop a social media campaign for National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM), a celebration of arts and culture hosted by AFTA every October. Given my fine arts background and millennial status, I was put in charge of compiling the Instagram prompt asking artists and arts enthusiasts to #ShowYourArt. What looks like an aggrandized picstitch actually took hours of linking layers and debating composition. Perfectionist or photoshop amateur? I’ll let you decide.

Additionally, I worked with the Arts Education Intern to develop resources on how Local Arts Agencies can effectively support arts education within their communities. Most Local Arts Agencies offer arts education programming in some capacity, but their means differ as much as the organizations themselves. Our project, “What Locals Arts Agencies Can Do for Arts Education,” compiled both internal and external sources on cultural planning, workshops and classes, community engagement, school partnerships, and funding.

As my partner just completed a graduate degree in Arts Education, she took on the role of a content specialist. I, on the other hand, used my editing skills to transform a 20-page case study on “Portland’s Path to the Arts Tax” into a 2-page summary intended to serve as a strong model for arts advocates. Once completed, we presented these projects to half the organization—an intimidating feat, as it involved pitching a powerpoint in heels and a pencil skirt while the CEO scribbled furiously onto an AFTA-branded notepad.

All this exposure to new job titles and specialties gave rise to pressing existential questions of “Who do I want to be when I grow up?” and “What am I doing with my life?” Tell someone outside your prospective field something vague like, “I would like to combine art and business,” or more specific still, “I would like to pursue a graduate degree in arts administration,” and no one presses further. They are impressed you have some semblance of a plan, and continue with their daily dose of small talk.

But at Americans for the Arts, surrounded by arts administrative professionals, this kind of answer doesn’t cut it. Instead, people ask follow-up questions like:

“Do you want to go into for-profit or non-profit? Private sector or public sector?”
“I saw on your resume you’re a writer. Have you looked into development? Communications? Marketing?”

“Who do you want to be when you get out of grad school? As in, what job title would you like to hold?”

“You don’t need to go to grad school. Just go get work experience.  Honestly, when I hire, I don’t even look at where applicants went to school.”

“Grad school was the best thing I ever did. Really gives you comprehensive overview of the field.”

And perhaps most frikellyolshanghtening:

“You should look at Museum jobs in Dubai or China. Things are happening in China. Nothing is happening in the US.” When I responded that I don’t speak Chinese, my supervisor deemed this inconsequential. “Doesn’t matter,” she said, taking a sip of her third caffeinated beverage of the day.

To get some answers, I scheduled coffee dates with anyone with a caffeine addiction and a willingness to impart an hour’s worth of wisdom (these criteria basically include the entire staff). As it were, I met with team members from development, membership, and research; the COO, the CEO, and the executive assistant, to name a few. I didn’t realize how many notes I’d taken until it was time to unpack my desk, which practically contained a dissertation’s worth of legal pads.

And these meetings are just from the AFTA staff. Everyone knew someone, making it easy to fall down a networking rabbit hole. My supervisor happened to be friends with the Director of American University’s Arts Management program, a charming no-bullshit woman who point-blank informed me, “Your experience is great, but your resume is all wrong.” She proceeded to print it off, grab a red pen, and said, “Let’s do this.”

Of all these conversations, my primary take-away was that no one—not even prestigious arts professionals I so admired—has a direct career path. Unfortunately for us Type A folk, the universe forces you to meander. One VP with decades of museum and independent curatorial experience told us that she’s still trying to figure out who she wants to be when she grows up.

The COO and CEO followed the same trend: while I was hoping for them to divulge some sort of formulaic method they’d all been safeguarding, instead they told me no such process exists. “If you are passionate about your work, if you are engaged and asking the right questions, there is no wrong path,” they told me. My cubicle buddy put it more forthrightly: “Stop doubting yourself. You got this.”

To read more about Kelly’s internship and her art, visit her website at www.kellyolshan.com or her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kellyolshanart

Juliana Grassia (’15) Assists NC Secretary of State

Hello! My name is Juliana Grassia and I am a senior studying political science and French. My particular interests are in local and state politics, government relations, and policy making.

In November 2013, the UNC Asheville Honors Program sent out a notice for a scholarship program offered through UNC General Administration. The program is called the Marian Drane Graham Scholars Program. It’s an immersive and experiential summer program designed to provide students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain a better understanding of key issues facing public higher education. The program is open to rising juniors and seniors attending one of the sixteen constituent institutions of higher education in the University of North Carolina. Scholars are mentored by UNC leadership, spend time in the UNC General Administration offices in Chapel Hill, NC, travel to UNC campuses, and visit with key NC policy leaders and elected officials in North Carolina and Washington, DC. Scholars are also placed in a state government agency for an internship. In addition, scholars must write and present a capstone project during the program that addresses an issue or policy in public higher education.

As soon as I read the description, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. So I applied, and was chosen for an interview at the end of January. The interviews were to take place in Chapel Hill, so I had to opt for a Skype interview because ophoto2f the distance. With no experience with Skype interviews, I went to the Career Center for some advice. The advisors reminded me not to wear crazy colors or patterns and said to double-check that my webcam was working. They were very insightful and helped me calm down.

My interview lasted about ninety minutes, and I fortunately encountered no technical difficulties. In March, the day before Spring Break began, and received a phone call from the Assistant Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs for the UNC System, Dr. Tracey Ford. She gave me the wonderful news that I had been selected as a 2014 Marian Drane Graham Scholar.

For six weeks beginning at the end of May, I lived in Raleigh with the five other scholars. My internship placement was with the North Carolina Secretary of State, Elaine Marshall. When I found out about my internship, I was ecstatic. Secretary Marshall was the first woman to be elected to that office and the first woman elected to statewide executive office in North Carolina. I had heard her speak before at conferences, and I knew her as role model for women in politics.

It was a challenging internship because the department in which I was placed (government and policy relations) concentrates on working with the General Assembly. They focus on legislation and initiatives that impact the Department of the Secretary of State. My internship occurred in the midst of budget deliberations, so you can imagine every state agency in Raleigh was fighting to ensure they were not negatively impacted.

I quickly had to figure out protocol- how to act, when to speak, what to wear. I sat in on committee meetings and legislative sessions. Even when I vehemently disagreed with a state senator’s position, I had to keep it to myself. I can be very fiery when it comes to certain issues, but sometimes it’s better to pick my battles and emphasize compromise. After all, consensus building is a cornerstone of effective government. It was a lesson in respect and tact, and I’m glad to have had the experience. Luckily, my supervisors at the Secretary of State’s office gladly answered my questions. They knew it was a learning experience for me and I was happy for their mentorship.

The internship half of the scholars program reinforced my love for local and state politics. I decided by the end of the six weeks that my next step after graduation would be pursuing a Masters in Public Administration. Such a program would prepare me for a career similphoto1ar to that of my mentors and supervisors. I’d like to work behind-the-scenes as an advocate for a state agency or public institution of higher education; in fact, nothing would make me happier.

The Marian Drane Graham Scholars Program also included two service projects, three visits to UNC system campuses, and one whirlwind trip to Washington, DC where my peers and I met North Carolina senators and representatives, in addition to lobbyists and staffers. As a political junkie and policy nerd, I had the time of my life learning, asking questions, and discovering aspects of the UNC system that previously I knew nothing about. I also had the honor of presenting the capstone project I developed during the program at UNC General Administration in Chapel Hill. My project was on the Voter Information Verification Act and its impact on UNC system students.

Going forward, I am certain about the path I would like to follow. With the help of the connections I’ve made in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Asheville, I know that it’s possible for me to successfully pursue graduate school and (one day) a career about which I’m passionate. As a rising senior, I am terrified about life after UNC Asheville- everyone in my position feels the same way. However, I know that upon graduation I will have both the education and the experience to tackle whatever comes my way.

Lauren Gunter (’12) Prepares East Carolina University Community

I graduated from the Atmospheric Sciences and Mathematics Departments in December 2012.  I had been interested in weather since we learned about the water cycle in second grade; I knew through middle and high school that I would someday be a meteorologist.  I decided to pursue that dream when I graduationapplied to UNC Asheville and later declared my major in atmospheric sciences.

Freshman year, I was enrolled in the Liberal Studies Introductory Colloquium titled “Weather & Society” taught by Dr. Christopher Godfrey.  At the time, this course opened my eyes to the world of emergency management and other opportunities for atmospheric scientists.  In my pursuit of a meteorology degree, I became passionate with the impacts of weather and disasters, more than the actual science of weather or natural disasters.  I can now say that Dr. Godfrey’s class was the ignition of my passion; that freshman course has profoundly changed my career, future aspirations, and consequently, my life.

This newfound passion directed me towards 4 wonderful internships that I pursued over a 2 year period with the state and local governments.  The leadership and guidance I received from the many emergency managers I encountered during that time has contributed to my change in career path.  After graduation, I applied for a variety of jobs, including: emergency management coordinator, natural hazards planner, continuity planner, statistician, hydrologic technician, among many others.

I accepted a position at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, in June 2013.  I was hired as the Emergency and Continuity Planner within the Office of Environmental Health and SafeECU logo2ty.  Here, I have many responsibilities, including: emergency notification, hazardous materials response, business continuity planning, crisis communication, emergency operations planning, as well as disaster planning and preparedness.  I still utilize my meteorology degree, almost every day, in making decisions for the safety of our students, employees, patients, and visitors.

Within the world of emergency management, I have learned more about my majors (especially atmospheric sciences) and the connection between the disciplines.  Meteorology impacts everyone’s lives; weather may impact how you dress, what vehicle you drive, outdoor events, and even your mood.  My position looks at the impacts of weather on people and a society, and determines ways to mitigate the effects, prepare for the disruption, respond to a disaster, and recover from crises.

While I get to utilize my atmospheric sciences degree, emergency management deals with other types of hazards, including man-made and technological disasters.  This is where my liberal arts degree comes into the picture.  While I sometimes grumbled about going to the humanities and general education courses, these disciplines taught me patience, humility, compassion, and creative/critical thinking.  Those attributes have proven to given me the peace of mind and confidence I need to make decisions that may affect thousands of lives on campus.

I would have never imagined 6 years ago, when I graduated high school, that I would be where I am today.  It is with hard work, dedication, and guidance that I was able to make it this far.  At this time I would like to present you with a few things that I learned during this experience:

  • Talk with your advisor on a regular basis, not just when you need to register for classes.  This person is knowledgeable and has many contacts that can help you find the right hazmatgraduate school or job.  Don’t like your advisor?  Choose someone else within the department as your advisor, or consult with someone at the career center.
  • Join student organizations and honor societies on campus, especially those related to your major.  Not only do these look great on your resume, but they can be a ton of fun and you could meet your lifetime best friend.  Make sure you go to the special events and activities.  Take advantage of the freebies!
  • Start building your resume your freshman year, and edit it after each semester.  If you do not have a job, you should be listing extracurricular activities and related course work.  Visit the career center; those folks are amazing at fixing resumes and assisting with letters of intent.
  • Get a job, internship, or complete an undergraduate research project that interests you.  Whether it’s working for Campus Recreation, interning with a local company downtown, or doing research out in the field (or in the mountains rather), getting that hands-on experience will give you invaluable intel to your future wanderings.
  • Step out of your comfort zone!  Go to a conference within your discipline, and present your research poster or talk with other undergraduate/graduate students who are presenting their posters.  I cannot say this enough: network, network, network!  Through networking you will meet new friends, find your future employer, or interest you in a new career path.
  • Go exploring Asheville and the surrounding area.  Walk downtown and enjoy the music, art, and restaurants.  Go drive the Blue Ridge Parkway on a beautiful fall afternoon.  Take your friends and go camping (Campus Recreation rents out the equipment!).  Rent a bike and ride around the city.  Asheville is a beautiful place, so make beautiful memories!

Good luck in your future endeavors, bulldogs!

Rachel Ingram (’15) Observes through Nature

Life at UNC Asheville is remarkable.  Speaking as a student who transferred in to UNCA, I can attest that educational excellence happening here every session are unparalleled. I am a senior in the Mass Communications department, and I have had such a positive experience at this school. The professors, students, and overall environment are so conducive to a successful college journey.  Generally speaking, the classrooms of UNCA are somewhere that I enjoy being.

Last semester, however, I discovered one thing that no profound classroom discussion can compete with: real-world experience.  In January, 2014, I began an unpaid internship with the US Forest Service here in North Carolina.  While some of the work was monotonous, I quickly realized that the opportunity to become a fly on the wall within a large, diverse organization was invaluable.

I spent 12 hours10390530_10152547667054252_9072381004549987223_n per week nestled in my own little cubicle just outside the Public Affairs Officer’s corner office. My daily duties included plenty of my own projects; I was tasked with writing press releases, informational blurbs for pamphlets and doing numerous community outreach events at Asheville-area schools.

Perhaps the most beneficial tasks, though, were not assigned tasks at all. Countless tidbits of wisdom were gleaned during those quiet moments, when the majority of the office had already gone home on a Friday afternoon, and I sat poised in front of the keyboard at my desk, listening to the calm, knowledgeable prose of my supervisor in his office, on the phone with a reporter for Blue Ridge Outdoors.

On another occasion, my supervisor was required to handle the tragic death of a law enforcement officer and service dog from the organization.  He did so with bearing, compassion and skill.  In that stressful, grief-stricken week, I learned more about my career field than any textbook could ever convey to me. I learned because I had an expert showing me firsthand what to do.

Over the course of the semester, he dealt with endless budget cuts and heightened workloads, tough questions from concerned citizens regarding logging practices on National Forest Land and fee increases at recreational areas like Sliding Rock, and he chaired the monstrous structural revision project that the organization faces only twice a decade.

Ultimately, experience found its way to me during my internship through the vehicle of observation.  By shadowing my supervisor’s role in the organization as he led large project meetings, conducted interviews, communicated with the public and advised other employees, I learned what it meant to be a public relations specialist. The classes at UNCA are great, but there is not a doubt in my mind that I will carry the lessons of my internship with me forever.

Nick Lucas (’14) aids successful Asheville political campaign

As a discipline, Political Science contains a great deal of variation. Students are trained to think critically and to analyze institutions, organizations and movements with an eye to discovering the systems of relationships in which these phenomena exist, as well as the actor-dynamics that drive behavior within the systems themselves. The practical application of this training outside of academia can take many forms in both the private and public sectors, potentially including any government post, any corporate or non-profit administrative position, any career related to law, etc. In order to help narrow down this often overwhelming array of possibilities, the Political Science Department allows students to complete an internship thesis track as an alternative to a traditional academic thesis. Being possessed of a strong preference for hands-on involvement over abstract research, I quickly decided to choose the internship track.

I began seekiImageng an internship in March of 2013. My notion of what the internship should look like was fairly vague; all I had to go on was a strong and growing affinity for the city of Asheville and a desire to be involved in local politics. In terms of what I could offer to a prospective employer, my experience within the Political Science Department had led me to think of myself as a reasonably competent policy and issues analyst, a perception shared by my thesis advisor, Dr. Dolly Mullen. After a few meetings and conversations to get an idea of what I might be suited for, Dr. Mullen put me in touch with Bruce Mulkey, Patsy Keever’s congressional Campaign Manager and the recently hired Manager of Reelect Bothwell 2013. I sat down with Bruce over a cup of coffee soon after our initial email contact and did my absolute best to convince him of my commitment to the city, of my academic qualifications, and of my capacity for hard work. For his part, Bruce asked me a series of questions designed (I believe) to assess my ideological compatibility with Bothwell and my suitability for the position of Issues Analyst. At the end of the interview, Bruce simply told me “As far as I’m concerned, you’re on the campaign.”

From that point onward, the internship quickly developed a life of its own, far beyond the minimum parameters of my academic requirements. As an Issues Analyst my job was to research any issue of public concern that might become relevant to the campaign and to prepare a number of possible responses to that issue. This task was not particularly demanding, even with a 17-hour course load; as an incumbent, Councilman Bothwell was already pretty well versed on the issues facing the city and had taken clear positions on most of them. However, after a few weeks of preparing research, blog posts and news releases, everything changed, and I was given the additional role of Event Coordinator and was charged with direct supervision of all campaign events, subject to the preferences of the Manager and the candidate himself. It was at this point, in late April of 2013, that the campaign became a dense and rich experience for me, offering opportunities for development in applied political science that simply do not exist in purely academic settings and allowing me to meet hundreds of interesting and inspiring people.

In late August the campaign really got into full swing and I was promoted to the position of Assistant Campaign Manager, my tasks expanding to include advising other staffers and making decisions Imageabout the campaign’s strategic direction. The last two months of the race were a sprint, filled with events and press releases, culminating in election night on November 5th, by the end of which Councilman Bothwell had won back his seat by a respectable 15-point margin. I was very proud of the job that the team had accomplished, and proud as well of my own contribution. The internship had given me a space in which to explore and expand my understanding of political science as a discipline and as a means to effect real change in the world. Though most Americans may think of the exercise of politics in a negative light, I truly believe that political engagement represents the only real chance for human unity, and that the way to heal the failures of a flawed system is not to give up on it, but rather to confront those failures with energy and conviction. The hands-on experience I gained with this internship reinforced that belief and gave me a much more concrete idea of what I want to do with my education. I highly recommend that all students interested in applied political science seek out an internship that takes advantage of their skills and aspirations as I did; there is no better way to see where one’s interests truly lie.