Jeff Gilliland (’13) on his MAPH Internship: “Life Lessons from the Illinois Humanities Council”

A Guest Post by MAPH’s 2013 IHC Intern

Lesson #1: If you don’t have time, make time.

Well, bombed that interview, I thought as I hurried out of the office. After twenty minutes with the Illinois Humanities Council’s garrulous Director of Programs & Partnerships, I felt that I had made less of an impression than a footprint on granite. Oh well, can’t worry about that now. One Quarter Pounder with Cheese and an overlong 6-bus ride later, I sprinted to the classroom where my precept group was meeting to deliver thesis presentations. It was late May, 2013, and I just did not have the time.

Transitioning from MAPH into the working world can be an exercise in insufficiency, as you try and fail to give your thesis, classwork, and job prospects the attention they deserve. It’s a MAPH tradition to demand perfection from yourself, and being pulled in so many different directions can make you feel like you’re underperforming on all fronts. But do it anyway. Apply to the internships and the mentorship. Remember that your thesis is not a dissertation, and the world does not end when you get your diploma. Peering out into the context for the work we do in MAPH can do wonders for your well-being, and may actually improve your scholarship. So do it, even if it means smelling like Mickey D’s for your whole presentation.





Lesson #2: You’re better than you think.

Well, that’s a surprise, I thought as I read the e-mail inviting me to join the IHC for the summer. I still couldn’t remember a single intelligent thing I had said during my interview. But perhaps that’s what happens when you steep yourself in humanities discourse: even the dumb things you say come out smart. (Unfortunately, the smart things you say often come out dumb).

It’s important to remember how good you are at doing the things that people want you to do in the world. Your ability to speak and write articulately, and the critical thinking skills you gobble up in MAPH, will be invaluable no matter where you end up in life. So allow yourself to be confident, even overly so. Trust yourself, and don’t shy away from speaking up just because you can’t cite all your sources. Chances are people will want to hear what you have to say.


cafe society @ logan ctr

IHC’s Café Society event at the Logan Center

Lesson #3: Everyone loves animation.

Fittingly, the culmination of my internship was a presentation that I gave on one of the IHC’s public programs. Unlike my thesis presentation, I actually had time to prepare this one—and stuffed it as full of animations and nifty transitions as I could. This wasn’t all smoke and mirrors, either: animation keeps people interested, and can elucidate a point better than any explanation.

Of course, I’m not just giving Powerpoint tips here; this holds true for any aspect of life and relationships. The more animated you are, the more someone else will be. And if that person happens to be a potential employer, partner, customer, or student, your enthusiasm will help to create a bond of mutual respect and fun. Couple that with the skill and work ethic you are bound to develop in MAPH, and you have yourself a winning combination.



Now if only mutual respect and fun came with a 401(k)…







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