This summer, I interned for the Institute of Human Development and Well-being / Participatory Cultures Lab as the lead intern for the 8th Annual International Cellphilm Festival. I first developed interest in this position because of the strong connection I felt to the IHDW’s focal points of research with their many concurrent projects, in particular, social inequality, art, and education. My professional background has mainly centered in these three domains. Previously, I have interned in two early childhood education classrooms, as well as been the first graduate of a program in the Visual and Performing Arts Academy with special focus on digital editing and filmmaking. While at McGill, my sociology major has led me not only to care deeply about societal inequities and human rights, but equipped me with the tools for professional application of a sociological skill set. My internship with the IHDW allowed me to comprehensively unify my diverse interests and talents within one position, and gave me both immense practice and confidence working in the type of professional setting I plan to one day be part of.
The Institute of Human Development and Well-being focuses on increasing the well-being of individuals that are differently abled, have experienced physical or psychological trauma, or belong to traditionally high-risk populations through policymaking and leadership. Within the IHDW, the Participatory Cultures Lab focuses on the use of participatory research methodology to actively address these inequities. Participatory research methodology seeks to give research subjects agency in the collection and construction of research through the use of visual tools and arts-based approaches. This summer, my internship engaged me directly with participatory visual research, as I led the preparation, facilitation, and follow-up for the 8th International Cellphilm Festival as the lead intern on this IHDW initiative, under the supervision of Professor Claudia Mitchell from McGill’s Department of Education, and the director of the IHDW.
My responsibilities in this position were mainly related to the smooth functioning of the Cellphilm Festival, which focused on individuals’ and communities’ differential experience of COVID-19 and ways in which they maintained well-being despite the rapid spread of the pandemic. I first developed a communications strategy in coordination with another IHDW intern. This preliminary step of my internship had me expanding our social media presence through the creation of posts and video content for our Facebook and Twitter accounts. This was one of the highlights of my internship as it allowed me to apply my creative skill set in a professional capacity and see the tangible results of my work.
As the festival approached, I contacted and assembled a team of judges and MCs to analyze and critique submissions and prepare presentations for the live showcase of the festival. I compiled a comprehensive judging packet and collaborated with the IHDW team to develop criteria for the festival judging. Following the submission deadline, I organized and facilitated a judges’ meeting to compare selections for finalists and decide upon festival winners. I was immensely grateful for this experience, as the team entrusted me with a lot of responsibility. To prepare for the festival livestream, I contacted all the winners and experimented with the technology for the remote showing on June 12th, and during the livestream, I was responsible for time management and adhering to our schedule.
After the festival, I edited and produced a video of the festival recording, and developed post-festival follow-ups, including a comprehensive festival report, articles with festival participants, a thematic analysis, and toolkits on storyboarding and running a cellphilm festival. Since the completion of post-festival materials, I have contributed to more general PCL tasks, including updating the International Cellphilm Festival website.
Adapting to a remote learning experience was definitely a struggle. I spent half of the internship quarantining in Vermont with my family, before then returning to Montreal. It was often difficult to stay motivated to work from a home environment. I did find that the team was very inspirational and helpful – we had lots of group meetings and intern lunches with icebreakers and introductions to help us connect with one another despite the distance. My internet was not always reliable, so I sometimes had to drive to parking lots to find accessible WiFi. Overall, I think what I missed out on most was being able to work with the entire team in person at the office – I would have enjoyed being a part of that professional atmosphere.
This internship has been a crucial step in helping me to better conceptualize my post-graduate plans. The opportunity to productively apply the skills I have learned through my major, as well as my creative interests, has expanded my view to the depth and breadth of career possibilities I might be suitable for. I have also benefitted extraordinarily from being exposed to the wealth of experience and education shared by the entire IHDW / PCL team, as well as my fellow interns for the summer. I not only feel well-versed in the organization’s initiatives and goals, I also feel more confident taking leadership roles in group meetings, my verbal and written communication skills have improved, and I have learned how to navigate and foster professional relationships.