My name is Elliot Caron Vera, and I recently graduated from Skidmore College. Though I majored in Philosophy and English at Skidmore, in the months that followed graduation I had the opportunity – thanks to the generosity of donors and the work of Skidmore’s Career Development Center – to step outside of the disciplines I engaged as a student. This summer I took an Administration and Leadership Internship at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, and participated in the day-to-day work of this innovative, growing non-profit organization.
The Carle was founded in 2002 by Eric Carle, the children’s book illustrator most famous for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and his wife, Barbara Carle, an educator and social worker. At 15 years of age, The Carle is a leader in its field, with an invaluable collection of picture book art, an influential relationship to educators and artists alike, and an international presence. However, the organization is still very small, and must work hard to match its growing ambitions with its limited resources. This means that the museum’s limited staff must work inter-departmentally and with significant autonomy. These factors set up a great learning environment for an intern, who then gets the chance to see the dynamic work of a successful non-profit in action and across departments, with opportunities to personally participate.
I found this internship with a stroke of luck that came after two months of persistent effort and a series of disappointments. After I first received funding from the CDC, I found that my application to the internship for which I had originally applied for funding had been rejected. Determined to find another productive summer opportunity, I continued searching online and reaching out to personal contacts. Just as it began to look like my chance to find a fitting summer experience was falling through, I heard of this internship at The Eric Carle Museum. With the help of the CDC, I was able to connect the internship at The Carle to the funding I’d been awarded. As I move forward and look for new professional openings, this experience has instilled the importance of working with determination and open-mindedness – despite the difficulties of entering an unfamiliar job market after graduation – to make creative connections between existing opportunities and forge my own path as I move beyond my education.
The internship was a great fit; while I brought some of the critical thinking and research skills I developed as a student at Skidmore to the museum – conducting a research project on museum management of controversy for the executive director, and contributing research and analysis to the ongoing development of the museum’s upcoming grant opportunities and it’s new strategic plan – the position also offered me a great learning opportunity, exposing me to the dynamics of a successful non-profit organization as I shadowed the museum’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives. Though I used the copier several times, I was not confined to menial tasks, and took away hands-on knowledge and confidence after sitting in on board meetings, participating in conversations around prospective grants, researching competitor organizations, and more.
The internship was also a lot of fun. As I explained earlier, staff at The Carle are expected to energetically wear many hats. At one point, during Free Fun Friday at the museum, I donned a giant caterpillar ‘hat’ alongside several coworkers, starting a caterpillar dance party with the museum’s guests to the croon of Roy Orbison (see above).
I feel very grateful to the donors who made this experience possible, to Skidmore, in particular for the great work of its CDC, and The Eric Carle Museum for providing me this great learning opportunity. Thank you!
Elliot Caron Vera
Class of ‘18