Internal Biases

Jesse Pfaff, Secondary English Education/ACH Clear Pathways After School Arts Program

This week I had the privilege to speak at the virtual Duquesne Liberal Arts Internship Panel. It consisted of the coordinators for the Center for Career Development, including Coralyn McCauley who reached out to me with this opportunity. In our early correspondence, she explained that I would be part of a student panel discussing things like how I got my internship, what to do to ensure success at my internship, some valuable lessons and takeaways from the experience, and any advice for students looking for internships. I expected to see students who were also participating in the McAnulty academic internship program.

I was one of four student panelists. Along with the facilitators from the Center for Career Development, the zoom was also attended by a woman (whose name escapes me) who worked at the Watson Institute. She offered insight into how employers view internships, and gave helpful professional tips to help secure them (she felt really strongly that you should not chew gum during an interview). The coordinators would ask questions and the students took turns answering. Most of the other internship experiences were found through networking sites like LinkedIn and HandShake. Some of them were paid internships. They consisted of varying degrees and subjects. I felt unqualified to talk about my experience, first because I am in the midst of the internship. It’s hard to talk about how I ensured success when I have yet to fully achieve it. Secondly, most of the other students’ experiences were in the corporate and technical world. They learned different systems used within different communication systems. They planned events and covered the Pittsburgh Fashion Show. I was unsure how my experience so far would be useful.

I find myself unlearning and challenging some personal biases. One of which is the idea that teaching is not a white-collar job. It does not deserve the same respect and significance as professions such as engineering, accounting, or integrated marketing communications. When it was my turn to speak, I froze for a moment. My work at ACH seemed so easy and insignificant in that moment, because of the biases I hold. I decided that my internship experience is just as valuable as anyone else’s. I discussed how this was an opportunity for me to interact with students and implement what I’ve learned in child psychology. It lets me practice classroom management. It reminds me that teachers, like the one I will be, make a difference.

My advice for other students was to not be intimidated by internships. I explained the anxieties I felt, and that in my head it was this large, professional commitment with expectations I would never be able to meet. It seemed so official. It was daunting, but as I’ve gone through the experience and as other panelists discusses I have come to realize that we’re all just people and that there is nothing for me to fear. I may not know how to ensure success yet, but I know fear will ensure failure.


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