By Erin Dowdy, Because of Her Story Cohort Internship Program coordinator for the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative
Last summer 16 undergraduates and recent college graduates joined the Smithsonian from their homes. Their goal? To amplify women's voices to tell a more complete American story.
Launched in 2019, the Because of Her Story Cohort Internship Program is a paid opportunity that lasts eight weeks every summer. Interns work closely with mentors in selected Smithsonian museums and research centers.
Intern Gracie Anderson, a recent graduate from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, interned at Smithsonian magazine. For one of the six articles she wrote, Anderson explored the legacy of Marge Villa. Villas was one of few Latina players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League when she joined in 1946.
"I was able to talk to her daughter," Anderson said. "I was so excited to learn Villa's story and her passion for the game, but also about her passion for making sure as many people as possible could play. She wasn't a historical figure I knew about coming into the internship."
Because of Her Story interns explore various career paths, grow their networks, develop leadership and mentorship opportunities, and build practical and professional skills. Each week, interns participate in virtual cohort learning days. These days include panel discussions, behind-the-scenes tours, and workshops. Interns interact with museum professionals at different career stages, including museum directors and coordinators. They also engage in facilitated discussions with their cohort. Topics include issues that affect women in the workplace, museum best practices, intersectionality, and equity.
Intern Mia Cariello, a recent graduate of The Ohio State University, worked alongside the Wikimedia community. Her work advanced gender equity on Wikipedia by making Smithsonian collections about women more accessible.
"Before this internship, I wasn't really familiar with museum spaces," Cariello said. "After seeing the breadth of how many different kinds of people work there [at the Smithsonian], I thought 'I could do this.' Seeing all of these powerful women talk to us and want to help us, having that support system built in—this is a safe space I feel comfortable in."
After her internship, Elizabeth Gutiérrez, a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, wants to keep sharing stories of lesser-known people in STEM. Gutiérrez worked with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and NASA's Universe of Learning. The Universe of Learning provides educational resources about science for youth, families, and lifelong learners. With staff from these two teams, Gutiérrez helped develop an episode of a new podcast highlighting the people behind astrophysical discoveries. Her internship inspired her to expand her network and focus on her career aspirations.
Gutiérrez said, "I want to create a planetarium that highlights the contributions people from excluded groups have made to astronomy and foster people of color's STEM identities. This internship allowed me to make connections with people who can help."
Thanks to the 2021 Because of Her Story Internship Cohort, Smithsonian museums and research centers are better positioned to share meaningful content by and about women. Their fresh perspectives make our work stronger and more meaningful. And their work here will continue to empower and inspire people from all walks of life.
Learn about our 2022 Because of Her Story internships. You can also donate to the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative to support future interns.
- Join Us! Five Ways to Get Involved from Home this Women's History Month
- Writing Asian American and Pacific Islander Women Back into History with Wikipedia
- About Because of Her Story
Erin Dowdy is the Because of Her Story Cohort Internship Program coordinator for the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative. Working with colleagues across the Smithsonian, she ensures that the program mentors and interns have a rewarding and enriching experience.