Masterman’s Nia Weeks Talks about Her Summer Internship with the Penn Museum

by Diana Drake

As we looked around to feature interesting summer internships on KWHS, we were happy to discover one right in our backyard. The University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology – commonly called the Penn Museum – is the largest university museum in the U.S. and features collections of artifacts and art that tell the story of humanity from around the world. The new Middle East Galleries, for example, showcase “10,000 years of human history” with the 4,500-year-old crowning jewelry of a Mesopotamian queen, one of the world’s oldest wine vessels, and more. KWHS guest interviewer Julia Drake sat down recently with Nia Weeks, a high school sophomore at Julia R. Masterman School in Center City, Philadelphia, Pa., to discuss her internship among the mummies.

Knowledge@Wharton High School (KWHS): Nia Weeks will soon be a sophomore at the Julia R. Masterman School in Center City, Philadelphia. She spent three weeks this summer as an intern at the Penn Museum’s marketing/communications department. We welcome Nia to our KWHS studio to talk about her internship experience. Nia, nice to meet you.

Nia Weeks: You too. Thank you for having me.

KWHS: First, tell us more about the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, also known as Penn Museum.

Weeks: The museum started in the late 1800’s, and it was actually going to be a lot larger than it is today, but because the [Great] Depression hit, they had to stop construction. And since the museum was so large, they have a very large collection that most people don’t really recognize or know about.

And so, because of the limited space they can only show a small percentage of artifacts, but even with that small percentage it has a wide variety. We have a lot of different exhibits from all parts of the world, including China and Japan. We just opened the Middle East Galleries, which are just beautiful — to name a few.

KWHS: How did you get your internship there?

Weeks: I was introduced to the program by my mother, and we started the application in February. The beginning of the application was pretty easy, just some basic information. And then towards the end we had to do short answers. And then I had to get a teacher’s recommendation, which I got from my history teacher, and then we sent that in, and we got a reply back that I had gotten in back in late March. I started in July.

KWHS: It must have been interesting to go to work surrounded by so many cultures and collections. What were your internship responsibilities, and what was one of your favorite projects?

Weeks: I had a lot of smaller projects. Those were my main responsibilities. Some of them included creating social media posts for the museum’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. Actually, some of them are up there now.

I also had to help a coworker organize some of the news clips that they keep that mention the Penn Museum in them. And so they have been doing that for a really long time, but we’re not sure how much longer it is going to stay because newspapers aren’t as big of a business as they used to be because of the internet. And so that was a lot of work.

My biggest project was taking pictures around the museum, which I had to edit myself, and they are going to be used for I’m not sure what yet. But they were a lot of work because I had to edit each individual picture. It was a lot of fun.

KWHS: Internships help us understand the nature of work better and can have lots of benefits. What are some of your biggest takeaways from your Penn Museum internship, and what did you learn about marketing and even about yourself?

Weeks: Some of my biggest takeaways from the museum internship are how important museums are in preserving history, because without archaeologists going out into the field and bringing things back, we may not have all of the things we have today due to things such as weather wearing down on them. I also learned that it is important for people of different cultures to be able to keep their artifacts too, because I know museums are sometimes worried about preservation of the artifacts, but it is important that the people who created the artifacts are allowed to enjoy and appreciate their beauty.

KWHS: What would you say to other high school students who might feel intimidated to reach out about hands-on learning opportunities? How should they go about it?

Weeks: I would say to them to apply and just do it, because you may be a little scared at first, maybe a little apprehensive, but in the end it is a really great way to learn because it is so hands on and so engaging. You will meet so many great people like I did. At first, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to do the internship, but I persevered and I ended up meeting so many great people. I learned so much, and I had a really good time.

I would tell them to just stick through it. My advice would be to give your all on the application because that’s really who you are, and if they want someone like you they will definitely choose you. And to [observe everything] during the internship so that you can learn as much as you can.

KWHS: Are you planning on doing any other internships?

Weeks: Actually, I am doing an internship right now with Drexel [University in Philadelphia]. It is called the Summer Music Technology Program. And that is where we learn about the technology behind sound. I am in the section of the program that works with coding and creating music apps. And so the app that I am working on right now is creating sounds, being able to push buttons, and things like that. It’s just another example of how great hands-on experiences in internships can be.

KWHS: Thank you so much.

Weeks: Thank you for having me.

Related Links

Conversation Starters

What do you think Nia Weeks means when she says, “It is important that the people who created the artifacts are allowed to enjoy and appreciate their beauty.”?

Did Nia initially want to pursue an internship at the Penn Museum? What do you think held her back? Is she glad that she went through with it?

Internships are windows into different careers, and they also help us build practical workplace skills. Have you held a summer internship? If so, what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

2 comments on “Masterman’s Nia Weeks Talks about Her Summer Internship with the Penn Museum

  1. Thank you Knowledge @ Wharton for publishing such an incredible interview!

    As a young business owner, who connects high school students to internships and job shadowing opportunities I could not agree more with Nia Weeks. I remember a couple of years ago as a sophomore I was interested in law. This was mainly because of Harvey Specter the lead character from Suits (on USA Network). I wanted to be exactly like him, rich, badass and a ladies man and the only way I thought this was possible was by becoming a lawyer like Harvey Specter. During that time I used to think that the reason Harvey was Harvey was because of his job and if I wanted to become the next Harvey Specter I have to go to law school.

    So, I ran to my dad and told him I want to become a lawyer as he always used to ask him “Parth, you’re almost going to junior year, you should have some idea on what you want to study” and I always replied with, “Don’t worry dad I’ll figure what I want to study by the time I go to junior year”. That always kept him satisfied due to the fact that I promised him that when the time comes I’ll know what I need to do. The reaction I was expecting from my dad was for him to be excited, ecstatic, maybe jump up and down a couple of times (okay maybe this was a little far-fetched). Instead he told me “Okay, that’s good to hear that you know what you want to do. Why don’t I set up an internship for you so that you can understand what exactly lawyers do”. I was a bit reluctant at first like Nia said she was, but eventually I agreed and got out my best suit out to wear on the first day because Harvey Specter always said “Get it through your head. First impressions last”. Therefore to show my mentor at the firm I had to wear my best suit, with a matching watch, shoes, tie and belt.

    On the first of my internship while walking to the firm I could hear the theme song of Suits (The Greenback Boogie) playing in my head. As soon as I entered the building I knew I belong here. I was expecting myself to be job shadowing the managing partner of the firm and him asking me for advice, but life isn’t always how you dream for it to be. My two weeks internships started off by me learning about paper work, research and the important of the two aforementioned and by the end of the two weeks I can easily say that this lawyer stuff is not for me. Then, I realized that all of these TV shows and movies never show the real aspects of a lawyer’s job because nobody is going to watch 1 hour of paper work and researching.

    Now luckily for me my dad had contacts and set up and internship for me, but that is not possible for everyone especially for people living in Dubai like I do since teenagers working here is not the norm and that is exactly why I started my own business that connects high school students to internships. Now the reason I did this was because if I hadn’t gone through 2 weeks of hell at my internship I would have applied to study law, graduated and probably hated what I do.

    Thus, I thank Nia and Knowledge @ Wharton for sharing this article with many people who don’t believe that internships should be done by high school students.

    • Hi Parthsarthi,
      I agree with you that internships are a very helpful experience in trying out different careers because it helps you learn which career choices you enjoy and dislike. Internships give you a sample of what the job will actually be like.

      I really liked that you talked about how just a 2 week summer internship played a huge role in your life by deciding your career path. However, I feel that you could also talk about what you learned from the internship because every internship helps you gain experience or learn something, even if you didn’t like the career, such as time management during the internship. In your case, I feel that you learned something from the internship when you were researching or even doing paperwork and that you should also reflect back on it because you could find something valuable from all the work you did.

      I can personally relate to this because my cousin, after graduating from Georgia Tech University with a degree in electrical engineering, was offered an internship at Intel in Seattle so she took up the offer because she wanted to get some experience in the software engineering field and see how it was. This internship was brutal for her and she really disliked the job atmosphere and experience, but after a few years, an Amazon official found her and offered her a job at Amazon. She took up the job after a bad experience with Intel. The skills such as software engineering and public speaking allowed her to perform well in Amazon and because of the internship at Intel, it allowed her to join a better atmosphere in Amazon atmosphere such as being able to bring your pets to work everyday.

      Thank you for your comment Parthsarthi and it really helped me decide to find and take an internship at a company and reflect on why it would be good to do so.

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