PhD Internship Program History

Since 2018, the Office of the Associate Provost for Graduate Affairs and the BU Center for the Humanities have sponsored paid summer internships at major Boston institutions. In the first two summers, the internship sites were: the Boston Public Library, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Mayor’s Office, the Boston Athenæum, and the Boston Red Sox. In summer 2020, the Massachusetts Historical Society was added to the existing roster of sites. Also, in Summer 2020, when the internships all had to be held remotely, due to COVID-19, the newly established BU Health Humanities Initiative, led by NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor Anthony Petro, took the place of the Gardner Museum.

Reflections by Summer 2020 PhD Interns

Sean CaseSean Case: Massachusetts Historical Society Summer PhD Intern

Degree Program: American & New England Studies

Sean Case, a PhD student in the American & New England Studies Program at BU, supported the Massachusetts Historical Society’s public history programs through his 2020 internship.  He prepared study aids for students in grades 6 through 12 participating in a yearlong program intended “to foster a deeper appreciation of history through engagement with primary sources,” culminating in National History Day.  Sean also researched materials from the Society’s archives relating to foreign policy, in the field of peace studies, particularly the Society’s nineteenth-century holdings from the American Peace Society.  Sean hopes that these primary sources will fill a gap in Massachusetts’ public school history curriculum: coverage of the history of American international relations.  See Sean talk more about his summer here.

Kimber Chewning

Kimber Chewning: Boston Public Library Summer PhD Intern

Degree Program: History of Art & Architecture

Kimber Chewning, a PhD student in the History of Art & Architecture Department at BU interned at the Boston Public Library.  Kimber set out to make the BPL’s underutilized archives more accessible.  She focused on the 14,000 photos collected from the U.S. Soldier System Center, part of the BPL’s Digital Commonwealth holdings.  Studying images of food, packaging and textiles, Kimber identified connections between the varied needs of the military needs over time and emerging patterns of US mass consumption culture.  For example, corporations, having originated designs of the chicken nugget and clothing geared to protect against excessive heat and cold at the behest of the US Soldier System Center, in turn scaled these military commissions into commercial products for mass consumption.  Through this research, Kimber was able “to understand how the military-industrial complex really works.”  As a scholar of the history of photography, Kimber’s work helped her appreciate even more the ways in which “photos can make visible hard to see historical forces.”  See Kimber talk more about her summer here.

Colleen ForanColleen Foran: Mayor’s Office Summer PhD Intern

Degree Program: History of Art & Architecture

Colleen Foran, a PhD student in the History of Art & Architecture Department at BU worked in the Office of the Mayor of the City of Boston.  Colleen worked to support the Boston Arts Commission investigation of two controversial statues in the news: an 1879 Thomas Ball replica “The Emancipation Group” and a 1979 statue of Christopher Columbus.  Colleen notes: “It was incredibly rewarding to be a part of this process.  I actually got to watch in real time the decision being made to take down the ‘Emancipation Group.’”  Having researched and collected background information on which the Commission relied when it voted to remove, relocate and contextualize the statue, Colleen concludes: “Being part of the decision-making process definitely made me think more critically about public art, public space, and what it means to have representation of the very diverse publics here in Boston.”  See Colleen talk more about her summer here.

Katherine MitchellKatherine Mitchell: Boston Athenæum Summer PhD Intern

Degree Program: History of Art & Architecture

Katherine Mitchell, a PhD student in the History of Art & Architecture Department at BU worked with the Boston Athenæum.  Katherine wrote a syllabus and lesson plans for the Athenæum’s 2021 educators’ workshop on the subject of Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad.  She developed a civics module for the study of the monuments in the vicinity of the Athenæum: the Old State House and Boston Commons.  She also helped run the 2020 Athenæum educators’ workshop on the subject of Women and Suffrage.  Katherine notes that she has since been able to apply the knowledge she gained in lesson preparation and classroom pedagogy in her role as teaching fellow at BU.  As part of the internship, Katherine was able to interact with a wide variety of public history professionals: “Meeting with museum professionals, some of who come from similar academic backgrounds to my own was an excellent way to learn about careers outside the academy.”  See Katherine talk more about her summer here.

Maddie WebsterMaddie Webster: Boston Red Sox Summer PhD Intern

Degree Program: American & New England Studies

Maddie Webster, a PhD student in the American & New England Studies Program at BU spent the summer with the Boston Red Sox.  Working closely with the team’s historian Gordon Edes impressed upon Maddie “the variety of skills necessary for one to make it outside academia.”  Maddie not only practiced writing in a variety of non-academic genres, she also helped run virtual book talks sponsored by the Great Fenway Park Writers’ Series.  Researching and writing a blog post on the Royal Rooters, the Red Sox’s earliest fan club, their charismatic leader Michael T. “Nuff Ced” McGreevy, and his pioneering sports bar Third Base Saloon, the internship invigorated her own interests in Boston history, historic preservation and material culture.  See Maddie talk more about her summer here.

Marina WellsMarina Wells: Health Humanities Summer PhD Intern

Degree Program: American & New England Studies

Marina Wells, a PhD student in the American & New England Studies Program at BU interned at BU’s Health Humanities program in summer 2020.  She worked closely with Anthony Petro, Associate Professor in BU’s Department of Religion, in the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, and  the incoming NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor. She helped Professor Petro launch the Health Humanities at BU.  The health humanities brings together a variety of disciplines, drawing on the humanities and social sciences, as well as work in the arts, to understand aspects of the human condition related to health and medicine.  Marina helped launch a health humanities website to serve the academic needs of BU students.  In addition to its cross-disciplinarity, work in the health humanities intersected “in exciting and unexpected ways” with Marina’s own academic interests: trauma and masculinity studies.  See Marina talk more about her summer here.