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Street Team Intern: Weeks 7-13

My official time as an intern at the Indiana State Museum is over now. As I mentioned in my Instagram post on my last day, it was great experience! I spent the summer meeting new people in my industry and getting an inside look at what having a ‘real’ job is like.

I am very proud of the work I did at the museum, and have received praises from both of my supervisors to the point where I have been asked to continue coming to the museum as a volunteer to assist with their marketing efforts.

My favorite part of being at the museum was the sense of appreciation and welcoming I felt from the staff I interacted with. They of course are used to meeting new interns every semester, with a constant flow of us college kids coming in and out. It would have been very easy for the staff to brush me off, give me a simple ‘hello’ and otherwise ignore my existence. Instead, they happily introduced themselves, shook my hand, and continued to speak kindly with me at each passing.

Throughout the summer I generated social media content, wrote media tracking reports, pitched stories to the press, and wrote press releases. All of these things are important to my future career and practicing these PR tactics helped me grow more confident in myself and my abilities.

I’m definitely looking forward to continuing to work with the museum in the future!

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Miscommunications from Professors

(And other people higher up on the food chain)

When it comes to the classroom, there are very few things as frustrating as a professor who gives unclear instructions. It is especially difficult for me to be patient with communications professors who do this. How could you possibly give a delightful, well-informed lecture on transparent communication and then turn around and give us an assignment that has the whole class scratching their heads?

There are always going to be authority figures who give you unclear instructions – it probably started with your parents and will continue throughout the rest of your personal and professional life. So what are you supposed to do when you don’t know what to do in the first place?

First – do your best to have patience

Take a moment to remember how easy it is to leave out important details whenever you’re trying to explain something. We’ve all done it. If you’re knowledgeable about a certain topic you don’t always stop to consider what questions newcomers might have. So you end up spending five minutes rattling off your idea, having forgotten to explain something that to you seems obvious, and your audience winds up completely lost.

Give your professor/boss/grandma the benefit of the doubt here and calmly ask for clarification. Expect that occasionally the person might get a little embarrassed, assuming that because you’re asking a question you don’t like whatever they are trying to say. Assure them, if need be, that you just want to make sure you thoroughly understand.

Second – play it back in your head

Were the instructions unclear, or were you just not paying attention? Sometimes the part you are confused about was only mentioned once, and if you happened to get distracted at the time thinking about something irrelevant you might be lost on your accord. That’s okay. Just figure out what you need to do to come back to civilization and understand the assignment fully.

See if you can run back through everything your professor said and try to put the pieces together. If you’re still unsure, don’t be afraid to ask questions! If you would be more comfortable, message someone in your class and see if they have the answer to your question rather than the professor. Chances are, they are either confused too – in which case, at least you’re not alone – or they were listening better than you.

When all else fails – do your best

Don’t give up just because you are a little flustered. Do everything you know you are supposed to do, and if there’s another section of the assignment that you are unsure on whether or not to include – it’s probably best to do it.

Your professor may be a little disappointed if you misunderstood what they wanted, but at least they will be able to see that you tried.

 

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Do at least this one thing your advisors tell you to do:

Get involved. 

When you’re first exposed to a college campus, there’s a few phrases that all the mentors/tour guides/advisors repeat so often that it makes you want to scream. One of those is the inevitable spiel about how fantastic “getting involved in campus” can be. I certainly spent the vast majority of my first few months at college  rolling my eyes at said spiel.

How did they expect me to join clubs when I was already struggling with managing my time between homesickness and homework? There are some people who are designed for jumping right into “the college experience,” but I was not one of them. College was an enormous change for me for a long list of reasons, and in the very beginning I couldn’t find the energy to do much other than sit around re-watching my favorite television show from beginning to end (shout out to my girlfriend for putting up with me during those mopey months).

I am still not the type of person who is extremely active socially – I’m an introvert at heart. But I will say, and what I would advise to any other college students who are rolling their eyes at the get involved spiel is this: it is the beginning of my sophomore year, I am actively involved in two campus programs, and have seen an enormous positive change within myself partially as a result of this involvement.

Due to both the nature of the programs and to the social environment of them, I am more aware. I am more aware of injustices, aware of privileges, aware of exclusive language, aware of my community’s values, aware of support, aware of resources, and aware of myself. 

It is extremely important to me that I take the time to make this post, not only because it contains advice I hope others will follow, but because I am so thankful to be a part of the programs I am. I am grateful to have found a group of people with which I feel safe when vulnerable and with which I feel challenged intellectually. Thankful that said programs are facilitated by amazing, genuine people, not just faceless advisors I’ve only communicated with via email. I am thankful in a multitude of ways – and it’s only September – and every college student deserves to have that same feeling that I’ve been having for the past couple weeks.

pr writing

IUPUI Weeks of Welcome

As we near the month of August, I thought I would take a moment to upload some of the content I have worked on as the Marketing and Communications Lead for IUPUI’s Weeks of Welcome Student Steering Committee.

Weeks of Welcome is a program sponsored by IUPUI’s office of Educational Partnerships and Student Advocacy (EPSA) which takes place the first two weeks of every fall semester. Those two weeks are packed with amazing events all over campus that help incoming freshmen get to know their new home as well as welcome back other Jaguars. There are resource fairs, field day activities, tons of giveaway items, scavenger hunts, and mystery events that are revealed the week of!

For the past several months I have had the privilege of helping plan Weeks of Welcome 2016 (WOW) by operating the official Facebook page, as well as working firsthand with graphic designers to create marketing tools such as handbills, flyers, electronic ads, and even Snapchat filters. WOW 2016 is just a little over a month away at this point, but I thought I would share some of the content we have created thus far that won’t reveal too many surprises.

Past Assignments, pr writing

The Mind Trust Social Media Process

I worked with The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis organization dedicated to improving education in the community, to draft a document that would highlight the benefits of utilizing social media as a Public Relations tool.

Click the link below:

MindTrust Social Media Process – Marissa Smith

Supplemental Documents:

Document A

Document B

For more information on the organization:

The Mind Trust Website

Past Assignments

The Forgotten Streets: An Analysis on the Effects of Social Stratification in Indianapolis

12/9/15

Applied anthropologists and sociologists often study the uneven distribution of wealth and equality as it appears within different societies around the world, whether it be researching ancient civilizations or modern day cultures.  The hierarchy that results from this inequality amongst the peoples of a culture is a phenomenon known as social stratification, and is infallibly present in every organized population of human beings that has ever existed (Nanda; Warms, 2011, p. 240). Students of anthropology often read about such stratification and see how it applies to now-extinct societies or far away countries, but rarely does the American public stop to examine the inequality that runs rampant through their hometown. There is a deceptively blissful ignorance that results from learning about distant societies rather than discussing the effects of local injustices, and while most professors make it a point to use examples that adequately place the students in the shoes of sufferers, pupils all too often fail to absorb just how real the anthropological theories from their textbooks are. In order to receive a better understanding of social stratification, the real world effects of it, and how close-to-home such inequalities lie, I have chosen to take a closer look at the city of Indianapolis and how the rules of entitlement between certain neighborhoods are just as diverse as the city’s population itself.

Any person with a means of transportation can travel through the city of Indianapolis and see the variants in environmental quality amongst different regions. The city itself is notorious for its quick transitions from carefully groomed hotspots to seemingly forgotten streets, a notion which can be supported by a short drive down the length of Washington Street. That one street weaves through a desert of empty, dilapidated shopping plazas on the east side through the shiny sky-scrapers of downtown Indianapolis out to the west where it once again falls into shambles occupied only by used car dealerships and graffiti.

When comparing a map of Indianapolis that displays its varying median incomes to that of a map displaying crime, the restlessness of the city becomes blatantly apparent. The adults who inhabit the city’s many forgotten streets are well aware of the lack of opportunities provided to them, as well as the lack of funding the government chooses to send their way. It seems that the city is only willing to invest in a neighborhood and clean it up if there is a sizeable chance newcomers will flock there. The city, however, has little interest in taking care of an area that has no potential for being a hot spot, and thus generations of Indianapolis residents are in second place to the younger, wealthier demographic that is being drawn in. Take the area of Fountain Square for example, on the city’s southeast side. The cultural district outlined on maps and signs known as Fountain Square stretches along Virginia Avenue and Shelby Street, a quick drive through that area clearly showing it has recently blossomed into a hip area full of beatnik bars and high-priced housing.

The main strip is a kitschy mix of old architecture and fresh ideas which makes it great for attracting the minds and wallets of young adults. However, venture back a block or two from the main drag, and you’re very suddenly in the midst of a neighborhood that seems entirely untouched by the revenue of the nearby restaurants and shops. Narrow streets with cracked sidewalks are lined with dilapidated houses, telling the story of the real Fountain Square, a culturally diverse neighborhood that was deemed ‘an area of special need’ by the Department of Metropolitan Development Planning Division, and has not been majorly invested in by the government since the 1980s (Polis Center, 2010). This area is a prime example of the city’s dedication to drawing newcomers, something that is definitely beneficial for a portion of the local economy, which has unfortunately led to the neglect of long-time Indy residents. The median income for Fountain Square residents is $24,150, less than the median wage of the nation by $6,000, and considerably less than the whole of Indianapolis, the median of which comes in at around $41,000 (City Data). The average rent in the area is $579 a month, a figured heightened by the recently built apartment complexes along Virginia Avenue. For a resident with the neighborhoods average yearly salary, that amount of rent each month drops household income by nearly $7,000, leaving any single-parent families roughly $1,400 a month to cover any other expenses – which for a family is entirely unrealistic. The aforementioned new apartment complexes on the main strip can be rented for upwards of $900 a month (and that’s just for studio), which by comparison, is an unfathomable cost to local residents of the average salary. The differences in living costs from block to block is certainly drastic and discouraging for your average southeast side family.

Lack of funding to the area certainly has a negative effect on the students of local schools, the overall education system in Indiana itself infamous for clashing with the tight budgets and ideals of government officials. The Indianapolis Public School System is composed of 60 different facilities, responsible for students varying in grades from kindergarten through twelfth grade (IPS, 2015). This enormous web of education does not begin to include the additional charter schools in position around the city, put in place by organizations like The Mind Trust to attempt to cater to the thousands of students who do not prosper under the framework and budget of a traditional public school experience.

Like many residents, Steven Campbell, who works for the Mind Trust as the Vice President of Communications, has mixed feelings about the city’s effort to support childhood education. Having grown up in the city and spent the majority of his career as the main marketing representative for the city, he has done interviews with major news outlets such as CNN, USA Today, The New York Times, and was kind enough to lend me some of his time and share his thoughts on the effects of inequality on the city’s children. “You can always do more” he ventured to say, after I asked how he thought the government cares for its future adults. Having been a part of that government in the past, he was careful not to overstep any boundaries, but I could see that his words and concerns of the students were genuine. We had a friendly chat in his office, myself as a newcomer to the city, and himself as a man who grew up here. Campbell stated that he believed the kids were aware of the inequality, though jealousy likely did not occur until the middle school years, when the students have more experience and are able to make their own observations via the outside world and the internet. When prompted about the level of security at Indianapolis Public Schools, he shared that the schools do have police force specifically assigned to them, but as far as constant on-site security there is nothing more than your typical locked doors. “If you treat the kids like prisoners, they’re going to act like prisoners,” he went on to say, noting that though some of the school are in neighborhoods of elevated crime rates, it is important to let the students feel like kids rather than criminals. Overall, Campbell had a surprisingly positive view on the school systems and the city’s duties in protecting them, as a man who has experience in the field he understands how difficult it is to balance budgets and keep everyone happy. Anthropologically speaking, societies cannot exist without some level of stratification, which goes along with Campbell’s stance on the situation. Still, driving around the city, it is difficult to imagine any residents of the forgotten streets content with their lifestyle and lack of government funding just because human nature indicates that someone has to suffer.

Research certainly proves that certain sections of the city have suffered hits to educational attainment because of the stratification in place. In Marion county, a target area that excludes many of the wealthier suburbs that tend to be grouped with Indianapolis for research purposes, just over 90% of jobs provide salaries higher than $30,000 a year (Stats Indiana). This statistic alone sounds promising for Marion county residents, however, if you take into account the education level needed to obtain higher paying jobs, which is normally at least a Bachelor’s degree, very few people meet the qualifications. Only 27% of the county’s adults have a Bachelor’s degree, leading to a cause-and-effect sequence of most positions being awarded to those occupying the wealthier suburbs like Carmel and Fishers. Both of those cities lie within Hamilton county, an overall better funded and more educated sector, which boasts the majority of its population as holding a Bachelor’s degree at 55% (U.S. Census Bureau). Consequently, those with no college experience are scattered around the city at either food service, retail, or warehouse jobs, commuting an average of 22 minutes to work, while those who live on the fringes of the city are spending the 20 minutes time it takes to travel downtown to the higher paying jobs. Overall, a vast amount of gasoline, time, and labor is wasted due to lack of education for locals.

A few minutes’ research and a drive through the city is enough to shed light on the truth of Indianapolis, an urban setting which intermittently alternates between being pocked with neglected streets and decorated with polished homes. The government’s dedication to gussying up small portions of the city while seemingly forgetting about the blocks that really need reparation mirrors the actions of an aging pageant queen who aspires to wear so much make-up and such revealing clothing that no one will notice the increasing blemishes that come with passing years. Unfortunately, those who have not had to live with the consequences of fiscal inequality fall for such tricks, believing that the few neighborhoods and cultural districts that are regularly beautified are enough to keep everyone happy.  The resulting ignorance allows room for assumptions to be made about those who occupy the forgotten streets rather than questioning how such dilapidation occurred in the first place. Indianapolis is notorious for quickly transitioning from ‘bad neighborhoods’ to ‘up and coming’ locales, and all too often we tell ourselves that those areas that are cultivating new shops and freshly painted houses means residents have been retrieved from the fog of financial debt, when in reality neighborhoods that are up and coming are displacing long-time residents in favor of those with higher levels of education and deeper pockets. The government and the surrounding community needs to be held accountable for the stratification that runs rampant through certain streets, a notion which first begins not only with increasing education in poverty stricken areas, but also through teaching those who are better off of the existence of personal privilege and how to help level things out.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Campbell, S. (2015, September 15). The Mind Trust. (M. Smith, Interviewer)

Center, T. P. (2010). Fountain Square. Retrieved from The Polis Center: http://www.polis.iupui.edu/RUC/Neighborhoods/FountainSquare/FSNarrative.htm

IPS. (2015, October). Schools Directory. Retrieved from IPS.org: http://www.myips.org/schools

Nanda, S., & Warms, R. (2011). Cultural Anthropology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Stats Indiana. (2013, October). Marion County Statistics. Retrieved from Stats Indiana.