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A Purposeful Summer

Bates students find meaning in a host of pursuits

Story by Bates College August 18th, 2017

see how students find purpose in their Bates-Funded internships

J.R. Watanasiri ’19 came to Bates from of Bangkok, Thailand, with a straightforward goal to major in biochemistry with a pre-med focus.

But he liked tuna, too.

“My mom is passionate about sushi,” he says. Back home, “bluefin tuna was a delicacy in our household. He wanted to learn more about how they were fished, processed, and eventually end up on our plates in a restaurant.”

Luckily, Bates has just the program — Purposeful Work — that equips students with the tools they need to follow their interests and, with imagination and integrity, pursue post-college work that’s personally meaningful.

Now, he’s hooked.

Watanasiri landed a Purposeful Work internship with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, spending the summer helping researchers learn more about the migratory patterns of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Now, he’s hooked. “I am still pre-med, I would like to explore more of the world of marine science and try to make it a focus in my major, if possible.”

Here’s what other Purposeful Work interns, along with fellow students who also had Bates-funded summer internships — as faculty research assistants, interns in the Lewiston-Auburn community, and academic fellowships in university settings — said about how those experiences have helped them discover more about what they want to do in life.

Sophia Thayer ’18 of West Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Major: Environmental studies

Project: Research assistant with Associate Professor of History Joe Hall

Funding: Summer Research Apprenticeship

Focus: Working with Hall on his ongoing research on the environmental history of western Maine to learn more about the area’s Wabanaki tribes.

Location: Lewiston and Auburn, Maine

Sophia says: I’ve worked with local town histories, scholarly writings, census data, historical primary sources, and other documents. We are mainly searching for how mills, dams, and other settler-created alterations influenced the environment they colonized, including the Wabanaki people who lived there.

One reason this work is important to me is that these alterations have never ceased. From this work, we can attempt to learn why environments and communities are structured the way they are.

I’ve always been interested in history and environmental work separately, but it wasn’t until I took a class on U.S. environmental history with Professor Hall that I recognized a serious intersection between the two.

Below: Professor of Environmental Studies Holly Ewing, Sophia Thayer '18 of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Ronni Mak '20 of New Bedford,Mass., and Associate Professor of History Joe Hall explore Bobbin Mill Brook in East Auburn for old saw and grist mill sites. Thayer has a summer research apprenticeship to explore Western Maine environmental history with Hall, while Mak's research on water quality with Ewing is funded by a Science Fellows Program Faculty-Student Research Grant.


Laura Nguyen ‘19 Paoli, Pa.

Major: Politics, women and gender studies

Project: Graphic design internship at The New York Times

Funding: The New York Times

Focus: Supporting a range of design projects, including the paper’s homepage redesign project and the Times’ print and online publication on July 2 of an annotated version of the U.S. Constitution

Location: New York City

Laura says: I meet and have interactions with people, I don’t think they realize how valuable they are to me, and the insights and advice that they’re giving me about my career are super-helpful. Not just helpful but really meaningful to me.


Gerald Nelson ’18 of San Antonio, Texas

Major: Rhetoric

Project: Purposeful Work internship with Sports Illustrated Kids

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Supporting the editorial work of Sports Illustrated Kids, including fact checking and story ideas, in an internship connection made possible by Sports Illustrated senior editor Matt Gagne ’04.

Location: New York City

Gerald says: I actually came up with the theme for this NFL preview we’re doing for September. They’ve relaxed some of the no-fun rules, so I’ve been tasked to look at what to expect: what fun things to look for in the season. Which has been pretty fun in itself!

Working in this environment and with this team has set me up for what to expect, the good and the bad. It makes me even more confident that this is the realm I want to be in.

I took the Purposeful Work practitioner-taught course with journalist Peter Moore ’78, and Matt [Gagne ’04] sat in our class, and we really hit it off. I networked with him, we stayed in touch, and he emailed me and said, “Hey, you should apply for this internship.”


India Lissak ’18 of San Francisco

Major: Neuroscience

Project: Internship in the Schiff Laboratory at the Feil Family Brain & Mind Research Institute of Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell University

Funding: Hoffman Summer Research Support Grant and Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Supporting the lab’s research to develop better strategies and improved diagnostics for the rational therapy of chronic cognitive disabilities resulting from brain injuries.

Location: New York City

India says: I have lots of mentors here! I’m working primarily with a Ph.D. student who is 25, so it’s really nice to have someone kind of close to my own age who is really smart and really knowledgeable. I’m able to connect with her.

This has opened me up to using science on a daily basis and connecting to patients. And we identified this new sleep stage in a subset of patients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and are in what is considered a minimally conscious state, which could have implications for recovery of consciousness in these patients.


Elijah Frater ’19 of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Major: Politics

Project: Purposeful Work intern at the marketing firm Hypr, a search engine that provides information on millions of social-media “influencers” — people and brands with social-media clout

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Supporting Hypr’s account-management efforts, including research to identify key influencers for Hypr clients.

Location: New York City

Elijah says: It’s been nerve-wracking. It’s been fun. All those things. I get to do work. I get to see what goes on in the day-to-day activities of a startup. I sit in meetings. And that’s not what a lot of interns can say.

Going to client meetings has got me accustomed to talking to big companies, talking to bosses— you know, coming out of college, talking to a boss can be a really nerve-wracking experience, but that has shaped me so I know in the future how to handle myself in certain environments.


Isa Moise ’19 of Mount Vernon, N.Y.

Major: Environmental studies

Project: Purposeful Work internship at Farm School NYC

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Helping Farm School’s mission to empower local residents in urban agriculture to inspire positive local action around food access and social, economic, and racial justice issues.

Location: New York City

Isa says: A lot of this experience has humbled me, in the sense that you can’t really control everything. But that’s part of the learning process of how to grow sustainable food that’s good for the environment and good for ourselves.

You have to be vigilant. You have to make sure the plants are growing OK. Is there yellowing happening? Why is the yellowing happening?

We focus on food justice, too. We’re growing Syrian varieties of vegetables like eggplant and tomatoes. You think about what’s going on in Syria, where people are losing crops. When you lose crops, you lose culture because you’re losing vegetables that go with certain recipes, and that means that a certain taste just won’t be there anymore for that culture. That’s a way that we’re trying to help prevent that kind of loss.

This has really kind of opened my eyes that farming can happen in New York City. We actually have about 250 days of the farming season, which is just 100 days short of the entire year.


Jackson FrenchRobitaille ’18 of Wilbraham, Mass.

Major: Rhetoric

Project: Purposeful Work internship with RetroReport

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Archival film research, creating a b-roll library, doing post-production, and formatting scripts for short documentaries by RetroReport that offer a new look at historical news stories that continue to influence today’s world. He’s also joined film crews on location.

Location: New York City

Jackson says: I like documentary film more than I thought I would. This isn’t guerrilla-style filmmaking, but more like taking existing footage and analyzing it, making a coherent path from what happened in the past to now.

The production process for different film genres is more different than I thought it was. I got into this because I was thinking about how to use film for humanitarian purposes. I’m learning how I fit into the world of documentary film.


Wanyi Lu ‘19 of Shenzhen City, China

Major: Neuroscience, Classical and Medieval Studies

Project: Research assistant with Associate Professor of Neuroscience Jason Castro

Funding: Sherman-Fairchild Research Grant

Focus: Supporting Castro’s research on the sense of smell, focusing on understanding the neural circuitry involved in odor processing and elucidating systemic relationships between chemical structures and odor percepts.

Location: Bates

Wanyi says: I had trouble trying to analyze the images we have taken using Matlab since I don’t have much computer programming experience. However, Jason was extremely patient with my questions and always led me through the problems I was facing.

Working with Jason this summer has shown me how different disciplines, in this case neuroscience and physics, can interact with each other. I have been prompted to think of important and solvable problems I can propose in the future.


Paul DiBenedetto ‘18 of Buffalo, N.Y.

Major: Politics

Project: Purposeful Work internship with LMCG Investments, where Ken Swan ’82 is CEO

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Supporting sales, marketing, and client-facing team at LMCG

Location: Boston

Paul says: Being at a smaller firm is like being at a small school like Bates. You get exposure to everything in a small cohesive work environment. You have the opportunity to ask questions.

So whether it’s with upper management or with other younger people within the firm, everyone is more than willing to answer your questions and to go out of their way to help you out. It’s great in that it helps you discover that there’s more Bates connections in areas that you might not realize.


Maria Garbarino ’18 of Reading, Mass.

Major: American cultural studies

Project: Purposeful Work intern with Black Duck, whose president and CEO is Lou Shipley P'18

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Supporting the human resources operation, including employee recruitment, at Black Duck Software, developer of products that automate processes involved in securing and managing open-source software

Location: Burlington, MA

Maria says: My major, American cultural studies, takes in a lot of different courses and that breadth has really helped me in recruiting. Much of what I do in my classes is group work and small discussions, and recruiting is working with people and having discussions. I can definitely see continuing in this field after graduation.


Jackson Gray ’19 of Allen, Texas

Major: Politics

Project: Purposeful Work internship with Sachem Strategies, founded by Nate Walton ’08

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative and Sachem Strategies

Focus: Government affairs consulting, primarily with clients in the defense industry.

Location: Boston

Jackson says: In the government affairs-consulting realm you get to see both the public and private sectors. I have really enjoyed being at the intersection of both of those hubs.

Sachem Strategies is a lean and mean operation — it’s not an internship where you get a coffee mug with the company name on it. What I am getting is a lot of experience. I’m getting a lot of access.


Sara Buscher ’19 of Falmouth, Mass.

Major: Biology

Project: Purposeful Work internship at The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Supporting the work of Let’s Go!, a nationally recognized childhood obesity program of The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital

Location: Portland, Maine

Sara says: As a result of working with Mainers, researching healthcare systems across the state, and living here this summer, I feel more connected to Maine than ever. There is definitely pride and unity among citizens that characterizes Maine, and that makes me feel honored to be here.


Nell Pearson ’20 of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Gordon Platt '19 of Groton, Mass.

Major: Nell Pearson: Undeclared; Gordon Platt: Environmental studies

Project: Internship with the Bicycle Coalition, a statewide advocacy group for biking and walking in Maine

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative (Pearson); Bicycle Coaltion (Platt)

Focus: Supporting the organization and administration of two major coalition events, the Maine Women’s Ride and the Maine Lobster Ride, and contributing to an interactive map displaying bike routes throughout the state.

Location: Portland, Maine

Nell says: A general interest in urban planning and sustainability prompted me to intern with BCM. Having grown up in New York City, I recognize the importance of alternative and renewable modes of transportation.

Talking with other employees about their professional and personal experiences was extremely interesting and allowed me to learn about the progression of their careers. Although I’m still unsure as to what type of career I would like to pursue, I’ve learned that there’s value in having a job that is personally meaningful, rewarding, and worthwhile.

Gordon says: In addition to events, I helped with the education work that the BCM is doing. In response to the increase in bicyclist and pedestrian deaths in Maine, we’re working with the Maine Department of Transportation and other groups on an initiative titled “Heads Up: Safety Is a Two-Way Street.”

Before this job, I had only ever worked as a construction laborer and sailing instructor, two hands-on jobs where you have quick results. Although much of my work at the coalition was comparatively bureaucratic, I was surprised at how motivated I was by the tasks I was doing for the greater mission of the coalition, and how I could actually see the impacts of the BCM’s advocacy work on a day-to-day scale in the city.


J.R. Watanasiri ‘19 of Bangkok, Thailand

Major: Biochemistry

Project: Purposeful Work intern at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Supporting work byGMRI scientists who are seeking to learn the movement of bluefin tuna throughout the Atlantic ocean, information that will help conservation and management efforts.

Much of this tracking is done by taking tissue samples — specifically the otolith, a bony inner-ear structure — from tuna caught by professional fishermen. By examining the otolith’s chemical structure, researchers can learn exactly where a fish has been.

Location: Portland, Maine

J.R. says: I applied for this internship due to my curiosity about bluefin tuna. My mom is passionate about sushi, and bluefin tuna was a delicacy in our household.

I wanted to learn more about how they are fished, processed, and eventually end up on our plates in a restaurant. I now know a substantial amount about bluefin tuna and how important it is to the seafood industry and the marine ecosystem.

I am a biochem major with a focus on pre-med, which is a completely different field than marine science. This internship introduced me to a field that I never thought I would have an interest in previously. I would like to see how I can relate my biochemistry major to a marine science field. Although I am still pre-med, I would like to explore more of the world of marine science and try to make it a focus in my major, if possible.


Grace Jurkovich ‘18 of St. Paul, Minn.

Major: Politics

Project: Internship at the Center for Wisdom’s Women, a grassroots collaborative offering safe haven and support for at-risk women experiencing homelessness, incarceration, abuse, or addiction

Funding: Harward Center for Community Partnerships’ Summer Civic Fellowship

Focus: Supporting the center’s new social enterprise, Herban Works, growing and selling products made from medicinal herbs and flowers

Location: Lewiston, Maine

Grace says: My most important role has been forming relationships with women at the center and empowering them to take on this project so it can truly become a business by and for local women.


Dylan Bilski ’18 of Glendale, N.Y.

Major: Economics

Project: Purposeful Work internship with Seattle Chocolates, whose CEO is Jean Thompson Deloucas '82

Funding: Seattle Chocolates

Focus: Supporting the firm’s marketing efforts, including competitor analysis, sales strategies, and social media outreach.

Location: Seattle, Wash.

Dylan says: Primarily, my bosses are Charity Hestead, who is a marketing communication specialist, and Kirsty Ellison, vice president of sales and marketing. They are always willing to teach me and encourage me when I propose and idea or when I don't understand how to do a certain job. It is helpful for completing my tasks and makes me feel welcome at the company.

Jean [Thompson Deloucas ‘82] is also one of my bosses. She’s an effective leader. She treats everyone in the office equally, including myself, and is always willing to listen to my ideas and see my perspective of the brand. This has taught me the humbleness that is important in being a leader and boss.

(Photography by Ellie Thompson for Bates College)

Zofia Ahmad ’19 of Palo Alto, Calif.

Major: Economics, Classical and Medieval Studies

Project: Digital Humanities Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley

Funding: C3 Fellowship

Focus: An independent research project looking at cultural fusion between India and Greece from 331 B.C. to 31 B.C.

Location: Berkeley, Calif.

Zofia says: I had a post doc mentor but wasn't working directly with a faculty mentor since I was doing my own research project. The program arranged for us to attend several workshops on various digital research tools, and the members of the Berkeley D-Lab were extremely knowledgeable and helpful teachers. This was the first experience I've had doing an in-depth research project, and my first true exposure to digital humanities tools. Without this fellowship, I would have no idea what it would be like to actually pursue a career in academia, so I'm really thankful that I was given the opportunity to explore that career option. My experience definitely changed the way I think about research limits and capabilities, and exposed me to an entirely new world of methodology within my field.

(Photography by James Tensuan for Bates College)

Yeymi Rivas ‘19 of Richmond, Calif.

Major: Environmental studies

Project: Purposeful Work intern at the Conservation Lands Foundation, supervised by Sam Goldman ’03, director of strategic engagement

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative and Conservation Lands Foundation

Focus: Supporting the Conservation Lands Foundation's work to defend 27 national monuments around the West that are under review by the Trump administration.

Location: San Francisco

Yeymi says: It’s a difficult time for those who care about the natural world, so it has been thrilling to have been part of this movement this summer. I’ve always been a little nervous to enter the environmental field because it is often perceived as a white cause, but people of color feel the weight of environmental issues the most. I have realized that more people of color need to be involved in this field, which makes me proud to have helped CLF with its defense campaign.

(Photography by Eli Zaturanski for Bates College)

Anton Brown ‘18 of New Orleans

Major: Sociology

Project: Harward Center Summer Civic Fellow with St. Mary’s Nutrition Center

Funding: Harward Center for Community Partnerships’ Summer Civic Fellowship

Focus: Working in the organization's food bank, tending to neighborhood gardens throughout Lewiston, and helping with cooking classes in the center, located at 208 Bates St.

Location: Lewiston

Anton says: I've forged great bonds in such a short time that it's making me wish I had known about the Nutrition Center for all of my previous three years at Bates. I can definitely see myself living and working with the beautiful people I have crossed paths with in Lewiston-Auburn. I'm not sure what type of career just yet, but I know whatever it may be I want to make a positive impact.


BriellE Antonelli ’18 Of Warwick, N.Y.

Major: Biology

Project: Purposeful Work internship with Omni Med, whose founder and president is Dr. Edward O’Neil Jr. ’82

Funding: Purposeful Work initiative

Focus: Supporting projects for Omni Med, a global-health NGO that trains community-health workers who serve abroad. Omni Med is a pioneer in healthcare outreach programs for underserved communities in Uganda, Kenya, Belize, and Guyana.

Location: Waban, Mass.

Brielle says: Besides supporting Omni Med, I was able to shadow Dr. O’Neil, who is an emergency medicine physician at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center. He also set up multiple connections for me with medical professionals, including Bates alumni who are either physicians, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, or current medical students.

Going into the internship, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue a career in public health or clinical medicine. Dr. O’Neil educated me about both ends of the spectrum and offered me multiple opportunities to explore both fields. Dr. O’Neil is as an example of how to integrate two professions, and we ended up forming a great relationship that will last for years to come.

BriellaeAntonelli ’18 poses with Dr. Ed O’ Neill ’82 outside the emergency department of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Mass.
Footnote: Produced by the Bates Communications Office with photography by Phyllis Graber Jensen, James Tensuan, Ellie Thompson, and Eli Zaturanski, . (Max. 200 chars)