Eliot Davenport is a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Their dissertation research focuses on the intersection of premodern (1st millennium CE) Indian philosophy of language and contemporary queer theory, particularly concerning the power of speech acts.
Eliot interned with the American Institute for Indian Studies (AIIS).
Q. What are your post-PhD career aspirations?
I aim to have a career in some aspect of higher education.
Q. Please summarize your PhD Plus internship.
As a graduate student whose research interests center on Indian religious traditions, I also have a great interest in studying Indian languages. It was my interest in learning Sanskrit that brought me to the study of religion in the first place. Consequently, I had known about the American Institute for Indian Studies (AIIS), particularly their renowned Indian language programs, for many years before applying for this internship. When I began to think about careers I might want to pursue beyond teaching, interning with AIIS stood out to me as an exciting possibility. I thought that working with the wonderful people at AIIS would allow me to get a taste for a career beyond a professorship in which my academic interests would not only be an asset but would align with the larger mission of the organization. During the semester I spent with AIIS, I served as a member of a committee planning a year-long (December 2021 - December 2022) celebration of the 60th anniversary of the institution. I worked closely with the organization’s media consultant, Anandi Silva Knuppel, to design and build a 60th anniversary website highlighting the many wonderful ways in which AIIS has and continues to support Indian scholarship in the United States. In addition, I produced both visual and written content about the history of AIIS for the website and helped produce several of the organization’s podcast episodes. Anandi was a joy to work with during my internship. She was always willing to take time to connect and answer any and all of my questions. Her expertise along with her patience and kindness made her a wonderful mentor from whom I learned a great deal.
Q. What professional skills did you develop during your internship?
As an intern with AIIS, I was trained in website development and podcast production, both of which I don’t think I ever would have had the chance to learn as a graduate student in the humanities. I very much enjoyed developing these skills, which allowed me to bring together some of my training from my previous STEM career with my current academic training, and I am thrilled to be able to add these skills to my toolkit. A skill that I developed which is less concrete but equally as important is that of working collaboratively with a large group of diverse people across the globe.
Q. How did the internship support your career development?
I sought out this internship because, as I said above, I hoped it would help me imagine a possible future beyond the academy, one in which my academic interests in Indian religions and languages and the skills that I have honed in graduate school, such as writing and editing, could combine to make me a perfect fit. My time with AIIS did exactly this! Although I do still hope to teach at the university level, I am interested in seeking out other career opportunities with organizations that promote greater scholarly and public engagement with India.
Q. What advice would you give peers on utilizing PhD Plus internships for career development?
The semester goes much faster than you think it will, so use your time wisely and dive into your role as much as you can from the very start. Don't hesitate to tell the people with whom you are working which skills you would like to develop during your internship or to which projects you’d like to contribute. This will help them refine your internship experience so that you can get the most out of it according to your own career interests. Also, interning is such a different experience from normal graduate duties. Enjoy it!