One hundred and thirty six Williams students received funding to pursue their dreams through the ’68 Center for Career Exploration’s wINTERNship program held in January. These funded projects ranged from providing counseling at AKALA, a start-up that offers affordable access to high-quality college admissions guidance, to working on a script for a new Netflix sci-fi comedy. This year’s projects also included 10 internships earmarked specifically for racial justice work, including researching social justice initiatives for the NAACP’s Berkshire County Chapter and expanding college access for incarcerated individuals with the Vera Institute of Justice, among others.
Two students, Meadhbh Ginnane ’21 and Trudy Fadding ’23, spent their month-long internships at the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation’s new Tribal Historic Preservation Extension Office in Williamstown. Established in September 2020 with support from Williams College, which was originally founded on land belonging to the Stockbridge-Munsee people, the office aims to protect Mohican and Munsee cultural sites as well as repatriate ancestors’ remains from museums for reburial by the community and return important cultural objects to the Tribe’s museum.
Ginnane and Fadding assisted in a range of cultural heritage projects related to the Tribe’s history in Stockbridge, Mass. With a longstanding interest in cultural heritage and repatriation, Ginnane researched the collection at the town’s Mission House Museum in order to see what objects could be repatriated under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). At the end of her internship, she submitted a comprehensive list of the Mohican items in the museum’s collection, accompanied by their eligibility under NAGPRA as well as potential issues and questions to be addressed before repatriation. Ginnane also researched the Stockbridge-Munsee items held within the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. “I really appreciated the opportunity to do this work, as cases involving the Smithsonian are generally known to be more complicated than typical NAGPRA cases,” she says. “It truly was an invaluable opportunity to learn more about Stockbridge-Munsee history, as well as to gain firsthand experience working with repatriations and cultural heritage.”
Among Fadding’s projects, she created a new sign to be located at the base of Monument Mountain, a popular hiking spot in Great Barrington, Mass., using her research on the mountain’s significance to the Stockbridge-Munsee people. In addition, her research will be featured in a new exhibit at the Mission House. The wINTERNship program also had an impact on the sophomore’s academic career. “This experience was a great example of using the field of historic preservation for resistance and empowerment,” says Fadding, who is considering which major to declare. “I learned so much about how the Tribe is working to represent themselves and how important sharing their history is during my internship. It only made it clearer to me that I want to keep learning about the intersections of American history, theory and social justice that are found in the American studies major.”
The January funded wINTERNships were made possible thanks to the generous support from Williams alumni. In addition to this program, students took advantage of the Micro Projects and Job Shadowing opportunities through EphLink, and participated in record numbers in 10 virtual industry career exploration treks, engaging many dozens of alumni.