My Summer As A Humanities For Life Intern

Hello everyone, I’m Casey Ryu from Lawrenceville, New Jersey. I will be an e5 Scholar in the fall of 2021 doing a project on the intersection of music and data. I’m a double major in Linguistics and Archaeology, Technology, and Historical Structures and have completed the Certificate in Community-Engaged Learning. Outside of academics, I am the Co-President of the Korean Student Union and the Vice President External of the Community Service Network. During the summer of 2019, I was part of the second cohort for the Humanities for Life Internship Program and had the wonderful opportunity to intern at the Memorial Art Gallery!

About the program

Humanities for Life is a program sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to grant University of Rochester students the opportunity to work at a local Rochester nonprofit. It is meant to provide students interested in pursuing a career in the humanities and nonprofit sector the opportunity to explore their interests and a $5,000 stipend for the summer. My cohort had a total of 15 interns across 13 organizations and it’s continued to grow since then!

Graph showing the Humanities for life program growth

The program application process was through Handshake and allows you to see the range of participating host organizations like The Strong Museum of Play, the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG), Writers & Books, 540 WMain, and more. Each organization outlines what they do, what positions they are looking for, and a general idea of what to expect as an intern. The Greene Center staff helped me tremendously to polish up my cover letters to convey my interest and skills. They also prepared me to complete my interviews successfully by making a great impression to convey my enthusiasm for the work that each organization does.

My internship experience

I interned in the MAG’s Academic Programs department for eight weeks. In my role I had the opportunity to pursue a holistic internship, working with several different departments to get a feel for what each team did. In Academic Programs I had the chance to assist the art teachers with local 4th grade students from the Rochester City School District and complete some data entry for the art camps. I also had the chance to work alongside the Curatorial team to see how they install and design an exhibition with the Sam Gilliam pieces and the 66th Finger Lakes Exhibition. There was also the opportunity for me to conduct research in my down time on 18th century British silverware and ceramics to redesign a case in the upper gallery. I attended some events that were promoted by the Marketing team like the car show, which featured some amazing vintage cars. Another spectacular moment was joining the Director of MAG, Jonathan Binstock, on a meeting to talk with Peter Jemison, an artist and member of the Seneca Heron Clan, for a potential exhibition in the future. It was incredible to meet an artist who has had a decades long career and is a proud member of the Rochester area. I also had the pleasure of spending time in Library & Archives going through their collections and helping them with any projects they handed off to me.

From my internship I learned that being flexible is crucial and unexpected changes in the schedule were actually some of the best moments from my entire experience. I had the chance to help the docents lead low vision/blind individuals around the museum and instantly formed a connection with the woman I was guiding. She and I talked about our love of languages as I described the paintings and statues before her with the possible smells, sounds, and feelings that are happening in the paintings. Another highlight was helping with the Medical Humanities program for incoming medical students. I was able to participate in the onboarding and training of the medical staff who would lead new medical students throughout the museum to understand how perspective, emotion, and humanistic qualities are critical to medicine. This was an entirely new concept to me and it was incredible to see the interdisciplinary connections being made across the arts and the sciences.


Besides your internship, another feature of the program is the circuit. All of the interns had the chance to visit the different internship sites and get a behind-the-scenes look at the work being done. It was exciting to see how each intern was a part of their entire organization’s ecosystem and all of the work being done in Rochester to support the humanities and the arts.

There were so many more things I did during that summer within MAG and each experience was amazing. I am very thankful for the people I got to meet and for them taking the time to explain how things work. It also made me realize the immense amount of time and effort that goes into creating public facing exhibitions and how much of the museum profession is hidden from view. It made me appreciate the work of all museum professionals even more!

For anyone interested in applying for the Humanities for Life Summer Internship Program, I highly encourage you to do so! Not only did I learn so much from my internship and the people I worked with, but I also had the chance to get to see Rochester in all of its sunny glory with great food, festivals, and the circuit. Good luck!

By Casey Ryu ('22)
Casey Ryu ('22) Podcast Specialist