On Interning at Island Press: Always Part of the Action

Late last year I graduated with an environmental science and policy degree, and was looking for jobs. I had already built experience in government and university settings while in school, filling temporary positions such as events outreach coordinator, and field instructor for middle school students. I’ve always been drawn to the sciences, reading, writing, and helping to promote the exchange of important research and environmental ideas. When I got the email asking for an interview with Island Press, I was excited to picture myself in the nonprofit world, and at a publisher so uniquely positioned among scientific researchers and activist communities.

I admit, my first weeks at Island Press were somewhat daunting. The calendars full of meetings and author calls, the long list of media contacts, and the rows of books lining the office walls all suggested the far reach of IP’s books and the ideas they contained, which was exciting. But I also found myself in the “you get what you wish for” dilemma. There were plenty of author names, book titles, and acronyms to learn, and also the new processes to remember, like how to mail out books, and how to use databases like TMM and Meltwater. I wondered if I could keep up, so I emailed a friend of mine, a retired editor, and asked if this was the norm. He promptly replied, “I think the high expectations is to be expected. I'm sure you'll do just fine,” which gave me a push to show more courage.

Fortunately and in spite of myself, I couldn’t help but get the hang of things. With the diversity of tasks given, you even learn which you especially enjoy. Among my favorites was drafting new press releases. There is a special joy in sticking your nose into a new book, analyzing existing promo text, and crafting words to further share the book with the world. There is a sense of shared, collegial purpose in seeing the edits Katharine and Jaime would make, and how each edit and comment was so on-point. After a round or two of edits, I would then package these same press releases with their books, mail them out to the book reviewers, and have the satisfaction of seeing a process start-to-finish.

And that, really, was the best part of being an intern at Island Press. There are plenty of tasks to be done, and a diversity of them, both meaningful and challenging, so that you always felt part of the action. Thanks to this experience, I’m more certain than ever that my passion lies with supporting scientists and activists in the environmental field—especially with writing, customer service, and outreach—and helping build those game-changing exchanges of ideas about public health, wildlife, and the planet. For a few months, I got to realize this passion at Island Press, a place where such important conversations begin.