Cheyenne Willis ’23

Clinton Church Restoration, Great Barrington, MA

This summer, I worked as a Research Intern for Clinton Church Restoration, a nonprofit that seeks to renovate the former historically black Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church for adaptive reuse as an African American cultural and historical site, with emphasis on honoring the Berkshires’ rich African American history, including the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois and Esther Dozier, the first female pastor of the church. Having worked with the organization in January, I was excited to continue my role and further my skills. My work was multifaceted, but centered on transcribing oral histories, doing independent research to inform the institution’s five-year plan, and synthesizing information from similar institutions.

Working from home, comfortably!

In my work, I’ve independently researched other African American cultural museums and relevant institutions, which culminated in a final spreadsheet with over 200 entries. Within this, I analyzed several trends, including whether similar institutions used “Black” or “African American,” whether sites used the name of a historical figure, whether sites used an acronym, the average word length, the regions these institutions came from, and other qualitative categories. After this, I created several relevant statistics and graphs, and presented them at a board meeting. In addition, I selected and connected with several consultants and branding agencies that could be useful at later stages of the projects. I also met with board members for guidance and with members of the church, during which I got to hear more about the rich African American history in the Berkshires and what people both included in and tangentially related to our project 
were doing.

This experience has taught me a lot about the nonprofit sector and helped me further develop my analytical, writing, and networking skills. Through conducting my own research, reading past information compiled for the project, and private interviews, I’ve gained a deep appreciation into how much planning goes into nonprofits that is seldom seen by the public, as well as the impact that nonprofits can have in local communities. The independent nature of the internship forced me to work on my time management and communication skills. Initially, I wasn’t given a lot of clear instruction on my tasks or a strict timeline to follow, so planning my time well and connecting with my supervisor and clearly conveying my needs, questions, and progress proved to be essential. I had the opportunity to work on my research skills and data analysis through selecting and analyzing relevant reports and articles from academic journals, as well as creating an Excel spreadsheet and graphs to summarize and analyze the data I found on naming trends. I also created a LinkedIn account at the request of my supervisor for the sole purpose of finding consultants, which moving forward will likely be important for my professional career.

I’m really grateful to the Class of 1972 for their generosity, as well as to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for creating and realizing this program. This opportunity is something that I would have absolutely never heard of or considered without the ’68 Center, and I wouldn’t have been able to have the positive and informative experience that I ended up having this summer.