Emily Mellen is a 6th year PhD candidate in the Department of Music at the University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her dissertation research is on an Italian radio station, Radio Bari, which broadcasted Fascist propaganda in Arabic to the Middle East & North Africa during the 1930s and early 1940s. She examines the music they used and what role it played in their propaganda.
Emily was an intern with UVA’s Vice Provost's Office for Global Affairs and currently holds the position of communications assistant at this same office. She also previously completed the PhD Plus Digital Humanities module.
Q. What are your post-PhD career aspirations?
I hope to find a career that blends higher ed education and research with behind-the-scenes administrative work.
Q. Please summarize your PhD Plus internship.
I applied for a PhD+ internship because I wanted experience in the administrative side of academia. I worked on many projects within communications for UVA's Vice Provost's Office for Global Affairs. Some of these included writing interviews and articles for our monthly newsletter, managing our social media accounts, organizing events and helping to build and organize our new website.
Q. What professional skills did you develop during your internship?
I learned how to function within a team. Working with a team for me looks like anything from weekly check-ins in which everyone shares their work and receives comments and feedback to collaborative writing to the delegation of tasks to make an event happen. I also learned new skills in transferring what I know about writing into the pithier style of the field of communications. One big difference in this writing style is that it needs to be succinct. The articles that I write for our newsletter are typically 500-700 words, more akin to an abstract than to an academic article or book chapter. My writing also needs to be legible to the general UVA population, which means less jargon—a good thing for me as sometimes I write about research in fields beyond the scope of my knowledge. Finally, whereas my academic writing is often focused on critique and honing the arguments of others, my writing in communications is often celebratory and based on my own impressions, while still remaining factual. In some ways, this kind of writing can be challenging because I am used to writing longer pieces with complex arguments, but I have learned that the descriptive style of writing that one uses to capture an audience at the beginning of a piece transfers over well. I think writing in this communications style may also have helped me transfer some clarity and simplicity into my academic arguments.
Q. How did the internship support your career development?
This internship got me excited about working on the administrative side of academia. Administration, as I understand it, is the scaffolding that supports research, learning, and wellbeing for UVA’s community. As part of the Office for Global Affairs, we support faculty & student global research, international students, and study abroad. This means setting up grants and other funding for global projects, creating events and other communications to showcase research and experiences abroad, working with global alumni (those who work abroad or previous international students), supporting international students, faculty, & staff when there are global crises, and organizing Global Week, UVA’s celebration of all things global. If possible, I would like to continue the work I have been doing here because I love the team that I work with.
Q. What advice would you give peers on utilizing PhD Plus internships for career development?
Choose something that interests you for the future, even if you're not sure if you have the skills to do it yet. This is a perfect opportunity to transform the skills we learn as PhD students into other career tracks and there should be plenty of support to do that!