Interview with Mary Clare Swan: Her Experience as an FSU History Social Media Intern

Wed, 04/12/23
Mary Clare Swan - an interview

Hi, my name is Mary Clare Swan, and I am a senior from Miami double majoring in Marketing and Finance. I am graduating this spring. I was a History Department Social Media Intern from fall 2020 through the summer of 2021, during my sophomore year. After graduation, I am very excited to be moving to Charlotte, N.C., to begin a role doing risk and compliance consulting.

What made you interested in the History Department Social Media Internship? 

I first heard about this internship when the Honors Program shared a post from the History Department looking for social media interns. I immediately thought, “This looks interesting; why don’t I just email them and see what it is about?” This was during the midst of COVID, so I was looking to find a way to get involved while doing all my classes from home. I contacted Dr. Liebeskind and explained that I was majoring in Marketing and believed I could use the skills I was learning in my classes for this internship.

I’ve always loved history. Some of my favorite classes in school growing up were my history classes. I had great teachers. I wanted to learn more about history, because I feel it is a very relevant topic that can be useful to many careers - even if you're a business major.

What training did you receive during your internship?  

I learned how to take pictures, conduct interviews, write professional articles, and edit using AP style. I also learned how to represent a brand on social media, specifically what can be posted and what can't be shared. You must utilize the brand colors and fonts and be aware of various copyright issues. The posts need to be in tune with the institution you post for, the message needs to be authentic. I learned about all the things happening behind the scenes in creating a social media post, which was truly eye opening. It was one thing to read about this in my textbooks and hear about it in my courses, but it was another thing to actually be the one creating the posts.

Can you describe your working relationship with your supervisor and team?  

Prior to starting this internship, I did not know Dr. Liebeskind, but she's been amazing! I got to know her through all the work that I did during my time as an intern, and she's become a mentor to me. She still reaches out to me asking for input on posts, and I reach out to her for other types of advice. She's become one of the people that I'm closest with on campus.

I also connected with the other interns. That was nice because we could collaborate on posts and get to know each other’s different styles and interests. For instance, in the fall of 2020 I worked with another intern on a series of posts for Halloween and Thanksgiving. In my second and third semesters, I was able to mentor the new interns that had joined us.

Working as a team, everyone was very willing to offer help and feedback on each other’s work. We worked closely with the communication’s office of the College of Arts and Sciences. Their director, Heather Athey, provided some training too. She was very knowledgeable and willing to help. I’d be able to email her asking her to about my posts, and she offered feedback. This was nice, because when you are doing a post by yourself while working remotely, you don’t always know whether you are doing the right thing. Sometimes you are thinking, “This is terrible,” but then you reach out and ask and the response you get is: “This looks great!”. That’s very motivational.

What was your favorite internship activity?  

Making Reels! They had just recently been introduced to Instagram while I was interning. I created the reel series “On This Day In FSU History.” I drew on the Florida Flambeau available on DigiNole. There are digital copies from 1915 to the late 1990s. I would look for an issue from the date I wanted to release the reel on, research and write about events on FSU’s campus on that day and turn it into a Reel. The engagement for the Reels proved to be very high. It was a new type of content, something we had not done before. That was exciting. I did not know how to make videos before this, but here I was experimenting and trying things out. Dr. Liebeskind gave me the freedom and support to do that. That was probably my favorite moment.

Which post are you most proud of?

I think the one post I am most proud of was for Pride month in June 2021. I wrote on the Johns Committee in Florida in the early 1960s, which targeted faculty and students who were gay. It was something I had never heard of prior to creating this post. I researched the topic extensively, which took a long time, but proved to be extremely rewarding in the end. The post was well received on social media and shared widely. I think for me, it was impactful because it was something I had never even realized happened at several Florida universities, and I think I was able to bring light to this horrible event. It was a tough post to do, but it was a very rewarding and insightful one.

What is something unexpected you learned from this internship?  

Learning about the history of FSU. For instance, when I was doing the "On This Day In FSU History” Reels, a number of the videos I created were about FSU’s precursor, the Florida State College for Women. I had not stopped to comprehend how different things were for the students before 1947, such as the curfews they had, the uniforms, and how tightly things were regulated. This is especially impactful because many of their dorms are still in use today, such as Landis and Gilchrist. The buildings look the same, but the student culture was so different. It was interesting and surprising to see what had remained the same on campus and what has changed.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the internship and how did you overcome it?  

Being only on Zoom because of COVID made it harder to collaborate and get feedback on my posts. Sometimes when I was working on a post, I felt like I needed to get feedback right away and could not wait for our weekly meeting. We had a group chat to keep in touch with the other interns, and there was always email. The situation forced me to be proactive, to reach out, and to stay connected. Dr. Liebeskind was always available by email and could point me in the right direction with my research and writing.

How has this internship helped you understand your career path better?  

The internship made me more aware of my strengths. I've always been good at writing, but as an intern I had to write different types of pieces, short captions, longer articles, and full-length interviews. These were not the traditional writing formats I was used to in my high school and college classes. I also had to work on topics I knew nothing about. I know now that I can research something from scratch and present it effectively. Additionally, I realized that I am very good at design and visual layout. This was a big plus when it came to working on Canva slides for various posts.

In my future career working as a consultant, I will be able to put these skills to use. I will be working on multiple projects on different topics for a range of clients all at the same time. I might not know everything about a topic, but I know that I can research things quickly, and put together proposals for clients using the most important facts. Furthermore, I know I can present information in a visually appealing way, without overwhelming my audience. All these skills will come in handy when I start my job after graduation.

If you could share one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Don't be scared to try something new. You just must be able to present your ideas clearly. Dr. Liebeskind will give you the creative freedom to try it. That's what I really enjoyed. I suggested doing a series on FSU football, and we continued it all throughout the fall 2020 semester. I looked for pictures on DigiNole and covered a different aspect of FSU football in each post.

In this internship, you can make a post about anything because everything has a history. You just must be creative and not be scared to take a risk.

If you could go back in time, what would you be doing differently during your internship?  

The one thing that I did not do extensively was conduct interviews with professors. I think it's an important skill to be able to talk to someone who is knowledgeable and in a higher position than you. When you are conducting interviews for jobs or within your profession, you need to know how to do this. So that is something I wish I had done. We had a couple of interns who focused on interviewing History faculty, so it was an option, I just did not take it up. If I was going to do the internship again, I would definitely try and take advantage of this opportunity to gain this important skill.

Is there anything else you would like to add for anyone interested in joining the internship? 

You don't have to be a History major to enjoy this internship. You can bring skills from any major to it. As a Marketing and Finance major, I was able to bring my marketing knowledge and perspective to FSU History. There's no wrong major for this internship, and Dr. Liebeskind really values all the different skills that students can bring. I loved my time on the team!