Katy McElroy Spent Summer Interning With Big Heavy World Music Group
She Was Grant Writer and Administrator of Online Store
By Lisbeth Redfield
August 24, 2006
Katherine McElroy '08 (Sudbury, Vt.) spent her summer as an intern at the Vermont grass-roots music group Big Heavy World. As a grant writer and the manager/administrator of an online store, McElroy learned about the administration of a non-profit organization.
While many of her peers opted for research, McElroy was one of 13 Hamiltonians who received college funding to conduct a summer internship, an increasingly popular move for students. The downside of internships is that many of them are unpaid, requiring students to pay their own housing and living expenses as well as working for free, all in pursuit of the elusive resume-booster 'work experience.'
Thanks to generous grants from parents and alumni, Hamilton students can apply for funding to support them while they work in a field of interest with an organization that cannot pay them. Though McElroy worked in what is known as an "unpaid internship," she received money from Hamilton's Joseph F. Anderson Internship Fund, given in honor of a 1944 Hamilton graduate who served the college for 18 years as vice president for communications and development. The fund in his name provides individual stipends to support full-time internships for students wishing to expand their educational horizons in preparation for potential careers after graduation.
Big Heavy World has been working for the past 10 years to preserve and promote the music of Vermont. The group runs a number of projects including an online music store, an archive of Vermont music (open to the public), compilation CDs, concert series, and a radio station. McElroy's duties involved researching and writing grant applications, the largest of which was a request for funding to restore an historic building to become the home of the music archive. She also acted as manager/administrator of the online music store.
McElroy works with director of the organization and many community volunteers. She explained that "a big part of Big Heavy World's mission is to involve youth in the operation of the organization. Local high school and college students are involved in everything from editing videos to writing press releases."
The largest challenge, she said, was the "endless amount of things that can be done," in combination with the lack of funding. "Sometimes all of the organization's projects can be overwhelming." She added, however, that overall she is "gaining experience in professional communication and problem solving."
Pursuing an internship because she "wanted to have some sort of experience that might help me figure out what I would like to do [after graduation]," McElroy found this opportunity through Hamilton's Maurice Horowitch Career Center and the Web site internships.com. After her work at Big Heavy World, she concluded that "each nonprofit organization would be quite unique depending on the mission and people involved."
McElroy is a volunteer soccer coach at Hamilton, as well as a member of the yoga club and the Ski and Snowboard Guild. She has also participated in a ropes course training program.
Asked for advice for future potential interns, McElroy said: "I would suggest looking for something that sounds really interesting to you, something that you can get excited about and care about...And reflect that in your application/interview."
- Lisbeth Redfield