Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Welcome to our lovely new interns!

Rebecca Y.

The twenty interns for the Cambridge University Press Summer 2010 Internship Program began our first week with an orientation meeting with Benjamin Jeremiah, the Employment Manager.  He gave us an overview of Cambridge University Press, such as the structure of the publisher, and an ample amount of information about fire safety. When it came time to filling out forms for contact information, I belatedly realized I should have packed a pen when I was nervously crammed nearly everything else – from tictacs to chapstick – into my bag, and two of my neighbors immediately offered me their pens. There were several awkward silences when we were left on our own as Benjamin headed off to photocopy whatever each of us had brought along as identification.

Put twenty young adults alone in a room dressed up especially nicely because it’s the very first day in a fancy conference room with one wall composed of glass, and it begins to feel a little like a zoo exhibit or a psychological experiment. Instill in these interns an interest in publishing and things will warm up rapidly.  Once the introductory business and the paperwork were completed, our respective departments came to collect us. Anticipation and tension were both high, and early on, Ashley and I were picked up by Caitlin, a Publicist from the Publicity Department.

My name is Becky, and I am a recent graduate from Bryn Mawr College where I majored in English. My fellow intern is Ashley, a rising Senior at Hofstra University who is majoring in Journalism and minoring in English.

Closing In

Frances – Laura – Becky – Ashley – Cindy (Photo by Caitlin!)

The individuals in the Publicity Department are basically amazing. To do a brief roll call, they are: Caitlin, Frances, Cindy, and Laura. Not only are they incredibly helpful and willing to teach us everything from the essentials to the complex, but they are also hilarious in the best sort of way. There is plenty of work to go around, but we’re constantly asked whether we feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed. They earnestly want to know what we are interested in to guarantee that we take away the most that we can from this experience. On Wednesday, we all had lunch together at South’s where we could converse in a laidback environment and occasionally crane our necks to check out how things were going in the World Cup. Later that day, Caitlin and Frances met with us to explain how exactly publicity functions and provide us with nifty samples to guide us along.

Ashley and I share an office just a few feet away from where the Publicity Department’s cubicles are located.  Each of us has a proper chair (that rolls and spins) and a desktop, and I’ve never felt more grown-up. We have even begun to decorate the space. Located nearby is a kitchen with free coffee and vending machines that possess better selection than the ones I had at college.

So, what does an intern in the Publicity Department do precisely?

Logically, there are the expected office tasks, such as photocopying and mailing, but they constitute as only a small portion of our overall duties. Maybe I’m a little weird, but I kind of find them relaxing in that they’re just a little mindless and allow me to explore both of Cambridge’s two floors in the process.

Shelving books became an opportunity to meet other members of the staff who were always friendly and curious about the new face wandering about the office with a stack of alphabetized books.  I was eagerly questioned about what college I attended, what department I was in, and how were things going. As a New Yorker, I’m astounded when strangers smile brightly at me and say hello, but this has proven to be the norm at Cambridge. (Just to note, I only spent about fifteen minutes organizing books. It was actually a great break from doing intellectual work and offered me a chance to stretch.) I’ve been welcomed and congratulated on graduating more times than I could count.

Our more engaging tasks include assembling databases, writing press releases and eblasts, and, of course, blogging. Additionally, we have assignments that correlate with our interests. We each selected which books we’d liked to work with, and Ashley is going to help out with the Marketing department because she wants to be involved with design. Of all of these duties, I find the press releases the most challenging. It requires me to buckle down and utilize the book’s AQ (author questionnaire), the catalogue, and the manuscript to create an engaging piece of writing that presents a summary of what the work has to offer, and then, even more intimidating, it gets sent out to a number of important individuals. Some of books I have worked with so far are: The Sexual Culture of the French Renaissance by Katherine Crawford, The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics by Luciano Floridi, and A Global Green New Deal: Rethinking the Economic Recovery by Edward B. Barbier.

So far, my very favorite job has probably been writing a transcript for an interview. When I was first assigned the duty of listening to a small cassette I became somewhat anxious. I haven’t used a cassette since I was eight, and that was a nursery rhyme collection.

Static tumbled into my ear as the interviewer set up the recording device before the interview actually began several seconds later.  It was a wonderful opportunity to listen in on a personal, enlightening conversation without being expected to try to contribute, like a private lecture with an amazing professor who was perfectly fine with you greedily tapping in on all of his or her knowledge.  Engrossed with what the man had to say, at times I would find myself looking at a solid block of text on the screen that I couldn’t quite remember typing since the material was that entertaining. He shared anecdotes about his career at Cambridge, which had begun well over a decade before I had been born. That cassette gave me an in-depth glimpse into a lifelong career at a publisher dedicated to expanding human knowledge. The gentlemanly voice informed me about how Cambridge has changed, the impact of technology, and what it means for the future… with the occasional, classically British, humorous remark.

And then, in what felt like a twist of fate, he began advising young people interested in a publishing career to delve right into it. It is a field that is rapidly changing, but the core nature to produce book driven to broaden knowledge remains the same.

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