Mapping Inequality in the City

By Emme Weisenfeld, FCLC 2023

Poster from a citywide anti-obesity media campaign

Briskly walking along 125th St during a 105º heat wave surveying New York residents on their occupations, health, and quality of life was, frankly, not how I originally expected to spend my summer. Burning heat aside, my time as a Research Data intern at MAPSCorps, in association with Mount Sinai’s Adolescent Health Center, proved to be an incredibly formative experience. The guidance and encounters I had with staff and peers alike greatly helped to determine the attributes I want to work into my future work and volunteer experiences, as well as redefine my views on the foundation and complexities of what gives New York City its identity. My primary role as a Field Coordinator (FC) at the MAPSCorps summer program was to lead students of New York’s Summer Youth program through a series of tasks that would, ideally, prepare them for a potential future career in public health or related sciences. The students were exposed to various virtual modules highlighting the criticality of high quality data collection, participated in excursions to the South Bronx and East Harlem to collect in-person business and survey data, and, as a capstone of sorts, produced an end-of-summer research video on New York City’s health data to be presented (virtually) to a panel in MAPSCorps’ headquarters of Chicago. Throughout their learning experience, my fellow FC interns and I supervised and challenged the students to expand their knowledge of public health disparities and their understanding of New York as a whole. 

This summer, the MAPSCorps team in New York’s research was focused on addressing the link between lower socioeconomic status and higher obesity prevalence within the communities of the South Bronx and East Harlem. In order to collect the data needed to address the proposed link, FCs, such as myself, led the mappers through virtual and in-person mapping; this work required using previously documented information (such as store names, hours, etc. on Google), as well as phone calls (virtual) and conversations with business owners (in-person) to verify the status and accessibility of businesses within our determined communities. As someone who has faced quite a bit of anxiety speaking on the phone with individuals I’m not familiar with, I found the process to be quite difficult at first, especially considering I was leading and teaching 10 mappers on how to do the same. Luckily, hour after hour of calling individuals to ask about their businesses quickly turned the act into a familiarity; I grew to be quite comfortable asking about the stores’ experiences during the pandemic, how they address the needs of their community, and what they’ve noticed about their primary consumer base from a health perspective.

From all of the responses I received, I began to conceptualize New York in a much broader light, experiencing it as a city filled with deeply complex issues based in the city’s complicated history and current wealth, social, and racial inequalities. Though I had previously been exposed to New York’s history and the many challenges it faces in many of Fordham’s courses, being in the field gave me an entirely new perspective. Having the opportunity to ask (often uncomfortable and revealing) questions, particularly in communities I hadn’t previously been exposed to, heavily reconstructed my vision of the city I’ve known for 21 years.

My time with MAPSCorps and Mount Sinai’s Adolescent Health Center was an experience that taught me how to be more outspoken in both the academic and work setting. I gained a new sense of confidence and pride, particularly when it came to teaching data and health curriculum to the youth mappers and advising them in their mapping endeavors. Interactions and conversations with my peers, mappers, and advisors at Mount Sinai have ultimately challenged me to view the communities I interact with through a much broader, inquisitive mindset.

Telling Stories from Numbers

By Son Tung (Bill) Do, FCLC 2023

Figure: Course sequence flow diagram for required CS courses [1]

I’ve been involved in Data Mining and Machine Learning since the end of my sophomore year through an ad posted on Blackboard. Two professors from the Computer Science (CS) department were looking for students to work in their EDM Lab. Electronic Dance Music you think? No, it’s actually Educational Data Mining. Data mining is the practice of finding patterns and correlations from a large amount of data, and this is how you can tell a story through numbers instead of words or music.

Through EDM Lab, I explore multiple sources of educational data, such as applicants’ information or college course grades, and my task is to find the trends and patterns from those huge datasets. For instance, can these two courses make a good course sequence, or should they be taken in parallel? Why are some prequel courses not affecting the student’s performance in their sequel courses at all? Should they be re-designed? How do genders affect the wording of recommendation letters? Can applicants’ information be used to predict their test scores? Those are some of the interesting questions we explore in EDM lab. Our raw data can contain half a million lines of entries, and data mining techniques help to tell stories from this seemingly boring ocean of countless numbers. The figure above shows the frequency of some CS course sequences that Fordham students take. My personal sequence is DISC -> CS2 -> DS -> DB/DM/ALG -> TOC/ORG -> OS/NET, and thousands of other students take courses in different sequences for different reasons. All the thick edges imply either required sequences or some other general consensus among CS students that we can speculate on. Every thick edge there is a potential story on its own.

Data Mining is the end result, so what are the techniques required to reach those results? This is where Machine Learning (ML) comes into play. A lot of modern Data Mining techniques are based on ML. Instead of teaching computers how to do some tasks, I can teach the computers to learn, so they can learn how to do those tasks themselves. In class, I study the mathematical models behind these ML techniques, and I can apply them to the work at EDM Lab. One learning model I’ve created together with some graduate students can predict the standardized test scores of applicants based on their other information. It shows the correlation between some geographical regions with high test scores, a story worth exploring. It’s satisfying to watch theoretical math models turn into solutions to practical problems.

The experience in EDM Lab has taught me valuable skills for my career. I learn to process and analyze large datasets, and I know how to implement ML systems. The research reinforces my interest in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, which I will further pursue in my senior year at Fordham and later in my career.

[1] Daniel D. Leeds, Cody Chen, Yijun Zhao, Fiza Metla, James Guest, and Gary M. Weiss. Generalized Sequential Pattern Mining of Undergraduate Courses, Proceedings of The 15th International Conference on Educational Data Mining (EDM22), International Educational Data Mining Society, Durham, UK, July 24-27.

Interning with mPrints Creations

By Adah Unachukwu, FCLC 2023

Logo designs that Adah proposed for the app

During the winter break, I was extremely focused on finding an internship. In addition to applying for internships on Handshake and other job sites, I also gave my resume to my friends and family so that they could pass it along to their friends who worked in relevant fields and industries. My aunt has a friend, Maggie, who owns a branding company. She made websites, logos and increased the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for brands. At the time, I was searching for brands that had a focus on social media where I could learn how to present a brand on social media. I met with Maggie, and we had an informal interview where we discussed what we wanted to get out of this internship. Payment was discussed, which made me very uncomfortable, but I soon learned the importance of advocating for yourself. The interview went very well, and I became an intern for Maggie during my spring semester.

My job description was to aid her in the research for an app that she wanted to launch. I was to sketch up a rudimentary business plan for the app as well. Because I was so interested in seeing how businesses manage their social media, Maggie also taught me a lot about what goes into building a business persona on social media. By the end of the internship, I was focused on the physical parts of branding such as the logo and on building a customer profile. 

Because this was my first internship, there was a lot of trial and error. Depending on what I was working on, I could make as many as five or six versions that would be carefully edited and critiqued. I never thought of myself as someone who could take criticism well, but working under Maggie really helped me appreciate constructive criticism. I also learned a lot about time management and how to lead a healthy work-life balance. Since the internship was remote, I had to figure out how to get my work done in a timely manner without the actual physical presence of my boss. I was also required to fill out a timesheet where I had to specify the exact projects I was working on during my hours. This forced me to be mindful of my time efficiency and I applied the same logic to my school work as well. 

All things considered, I really enjoyed this internship. I developed important skills which carried over into my current job, and I learned to have a lot of faith in my own skills. Although the remote aspect was ideal with my school schedule, I wish that I could have worked on a larger team and bounced ideas off a few more people. Although I enjoyed this internship, I will say that working with family members or close friends is very tricky. I doubt if in the future I would choose to work with family again. This internship was definitely interesting and I’m excited to work in social media even more!

Working at the Cannes Film Festival

By Sophia Henderson, FCLC 2023

Sophia Henderson and other interns at the Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes Film Festival is a two-week festival in the south of France, showcasing a multitude of breathtaking films both new and old. It is a frontier for new filmmakers to make their mark in the film landscape and an opportunity to see classic and restored films in a completely new form. I participated in the Cannes Film Festival this May–and no, I wasn’t debuting a film…yet. I interned at this prestigious festival through the American Pavillion and I gained great insight into the film industry. From May 17th to May 28th, I spent my time working at important industry events, meeting directors, actors, and everything in between. Most excitingly, I was able to be among the first to see some of the newest films. 

I arrived in Nice, France on May 15th and enjoyed the beautiful scenery on my ride to Cannes. During my first two days, I had the opportunity to settle into my temporary way of living and dust off my French skills. I explored the festival grounds with the other interns and became accustomed to my surroundings. The festival grounds were astounding, with theaters that looked like a film enthusiast’s dream, a row of tents called “The International Village,” and a big screen on the beach for Cinéma de la Plage. I was ecstatic to head straight into this internship. I worked daily in the International Village at the American Pavilion’s Tent. Within the International Village were tents for each country, which acted as a home base for films and filmmakers coming from all over the world. The American Pavilion provided a space for industry professionals to relax between film showings. It also acted as a space to network with many people having meetings or events. My job was catering to their VIP members and ensuring they had everything they needed while they were at the Pavilion. Luckily, that allowed me to talk to many industry professionals, who were thrilled to give me advice about building my career in the industry. Over the festival’s two weeks, I spoke with producers, directors, actors, agents, and even festival chairs. It was an eye-opening experience that allowed me to reevaluate my career goals (I even had to reevaluate where I may live as many of them told me that I would be successful in LA). In addition, I had the opportunity to attend many industry events, some run by Kodak, Deadline, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Sitting down and gaining real insight into what life and success look like in the film industry provided me with knowledge and skills to translate into my professional life. It was an experience that allowed me to think about the industry in a tangible way. 

Thankfully, the two weeks weren’t all about work. I connected with other interns to see some films, including two red carpets. There were so many films to see, and despite an overloaded ticketing website server, I managed to catch six films. Some of these films you’ll maybe never hear about, such as The Dam (dir. Ali Cherri), and some might be one of the summer’s biggest films like Elvis (dir. Baz Luhrmann). Seeing these films was amazing, and watching filmmakers talk about their films and their message/purpose made the experience more memorable. My favorite film was War Pony (dir. Riley Keough & Gina Gammel). It is a fictional story that details the experiences of two young men on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The creators carefully crafted this story with people on the reservation. They made a very realistic and relatable film that created a space for the Native Lakota people on the international film platform. This one film alone made me laugh, cry, and enter deep thought, and it’s still not available to the general public. The chance to see films pioneering the way for filmmakers of color on a global scale was honestly transformative. Also, walking the red carpet with Tom Hanks and Austin Butler (and yes, Shakira) was totally awesome. Surprisingly, those weren’t the only stars I got the chance to be in the same room with and meet. Jamie Foxx, Woody Harrelson, and Letitia Wright are just some celebrities who stopped by the Pavilion to talk with the interns. It was so cool just to be able to hear them talk about their experiences in their films and the industry. Lastly, of all the fun activities, exploring Cannes was definitely one of the best. The opportunity to just explore the town during its busiest point of the year and walk past all the events or watch a red carpet premiere made the experience that much more enchanting.

The Cannes Film Festival will be an opportunity that I will never forget and has taught me so much about the industry as a whole. I made some great connections in France, and I can’t wait to bring them with me into my career.

An Internship Abroad

By Natalia Zabala, FCLC 2023

Slide from a presentation on Colombia, showing Colombian flag

When I arrived at my study abroad program in Strasbourg, I learned of the community-based internships opportunity offered by my program. Due to my interest in language learning, the internship advisor Ms. Hardenberg found me an internship where I could use my knowledge of French, Spanish and English to help in the learning environment. I agreed to work at the Université Populaire Européenne for two courses, an English class on Wednesday mornings at nine o’clock and a Spanish class on Friday mornings at nine o’clock. The director of the university and my supervisor, Madame Barrière, also asked if I could help with some administrative work. 

I started with the administrative work right away. After a few meetings with Madame Barrière, she outlined my project: to draw up a diagnostic report on the @upestrasbourg Facebook page and on the website to assess electronic accessibility and the effectiveness of virtual engagement. She asked me to prepare the report for a meeting with her and other university administrators. Even with my experience presenting in front of crowds, I was nervous about presenting in French, especially on such a specific topic like virtual engagement. I prepared notes based on my research on how other universities created virtual student engagement as well as my own limited experience. When it came time for the presentation, I was extremely anxious as I stared at the Zoom link. All of a sudden, the meeting started and I started introducing myself and answering questions; I did not have time to be anxious because I had to pay attention to other administrators’ comments on the report. It was the first time after arriving in France that I spoke without thinking at every moment about exactly what I was saying. I was more fluent than I realized!

The English course was taught by Scottish teacher Madame Wagner. In each class, I brought my American perspective and accent to our discussions of topics like the healthcare system. During discussions, Ms. Wagner split the class into two groups to talk, and she sat with one group and I sat with the other to facilitate their discussions. In March, she gave me the opportunity to teach a class, and I chose to present on Mexican cuisine in the United States. I created a visual presentation and corresponding worksheet to lead the conversation, but I found that the questions from the students guided the presentation more than the notes or the work I had prepared. I received positive feedback at the conclusion of the presentation from the students and Mrs. Wagner, who asked if she could use the materials I had prepared for future classes.

 The Spanish class was totally different. All the students in Madame Rodriguez’s course were of a higher level and very lively. The students had a lot of questions about why I speak Spanish and my knowledge of and connections to the Latin American world. Every lesson was an opportunity to speak with the students because they were always eager to converse with me. I thus brought my knowledge of the language as much as my knowledge of culture to this course. Despite my competence in speaking, writing, and reading Spanish (because it is my mother tongue), I had never taken a Spanish class before, so the grammar was difficult even for me! I learned a lot with the students, such as how to use the subjunctive, something that I always did without thinking. I gave my presentation for this course on my very last day in Strasbourg about my home country of Colombia, and the students were excited to hear about the culture and the specificities of the language.         

Overall, my internship was an amazing and positive experience. Every day I learned something important about my knowledge of French, Spanish, and even English. I am grateful to Madame Hardenberg and Madame Barrière for the opportunity, and to Madame Wagner and Madame Rodriguez for welcoming me into their classrooms.

Learning the Ropes at the State Department

By Alyssa Macaluso, FCLC 2023

On a sunny Friday afternoon, I wrapped up my 12-week-long internship with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in a flurry of emails, thank-yous, and promises to keep in touch. It was a semester unlike any other, in part due to our return to fully in-person classes after two and a half semesters online. But it was also the first semester during which I essentially balanced a full-time job on top of school, my extracurricular activities, and my social life. 

I wasn’t nervous about the challenge of waking up at 5 a.m. every morning, working until the early afternoon, and then going to classes and club meetings. Nor was I apprehensive about the work I was doing, the gravity of it, or the consequences should I mess anything up terribly. For me, the discipline of working on a different schedule than the rest of my roommates and friends, was the most difficult part of the semester. 

I am a night owl, through and through. I work best between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m., when no one else is awake except for the other New Yorkers who also thrive in the dark and quiet. This semester, however, I couldn’t justify staying up that late to work on an essay or finish an assignment: The bulk of my work took place between 5:30 and 11 a.m. It almost felt like a betrayal to turn of the lights and will myself to sleep at 11:30 p.m., the earliest to bed in my suite, because I knew that if I stayed up any later, I wouldn’t be able to work at my best the next day  — and I am proud to say that I never pulled an all-nighter. If this semester taught me anything, it’s how to maintain a schedule that may, at first, seem incompatible with the rest of my life. 

Apart from working on time management, learning how to work within a team embedded in a very firm hierarchy was another hurdle I had to overcome this semester. In college, usually you work in teams of peers, all of whom are more or less equal in age, experience, and authority. For my team at State, however, there were clear leads and no ambiguity about where everyone belonged on the ladder. This really surprised me because we worked so intimately as a group. Every morning at 8:45 a.m., we’d log onto a call together to figure out assignments and recap the week’s events. Throughout the day, we’d email one another for help or advice or to flag memos. At times, it felt like there was no rigid structure in place, even though the roll call each morning reminded members where they ranked. This may be more a revelation about working in a setting where people of many different backgrounds — especially ages and experience — engage, but working with my team at State certainly provided insight into what it was like to navigate such a structure while also not losing sight of the camaraderie.  

One last insight I gained from this internship was networking. As interns, especially virtual ones, we were encouraged to reach out to anyone and everyone at State to set up individual meetings to learn more about different career opportunities, experiences, and stories of those working at State. I met with almost all of my team members individually, but I also reached out to staff in other sections and branches who held portfolios that interested me. It was sometimes nerve-wracking to send the initial email, even though plenty of colleagues assured me that they received emails from interns all of the time, but I’m very happy I did, since I was able to meet and form connections with so many new people. Learning to network with people professionally, especially soliciting meetings from them and even talking with them during meetings, is an invaluable skill that I will use without a doubt in my future endeavors. After this internship, I can say that I feel more prepared for whatever adventure I embark on next. 

Crazyflie Quadcopter Drone Research

By Meredith Coen, FCLC 2023

Crazyflie 2.1 Open Source Quadcopter Drone

When I was beginning to search for an exciting research project to engage with during my junior year, I felt torn between a variety of STEM interests I had developed during my time as an undergraduate student. As a result, I was thrilled to discover Dr. Damian Lyon’s research team in Fordham’s Computer Vision Robotics Lab, where I was able to apply the concepts covered through my mathematics, computer programming, and physics classes in drone research. As a team member during my junior year, I worked to expand the research to analyze the efficacy of gyroscopes and accelerometers in the lightweight Crazyflie 2.0 quadcopter drones. 

More specifically, I analyzed the efficacy of the gyroscopes and accelerometers’ ability in determining the presence of walls at different angles in the vicinity of the flying drone. This required re-running previous experiments and collecting new data, and then altering the Python code to achieve angled flight and data collection. In addition, I worked to have data collected by the gyroscopes and accelerometers in the drones to be classified continually using the RandomForest data classifier, in the hopes to make the classifier generalizable to other Crazyflie 2.0 drones, and other drones in general. Finally, I worked to improve the circumstances of the experiments by configuring and implementing an external Loco-Positioning System (LPS) to track the flight of the drones using GPS technology, as opposed to data collected internally by the drones’ IMUs. While the drone flight was still controlled by Python code, the LPS system allowed additional data to be collected for better detection of flight variation between drone flights, as well as more specific data to be collected about each flight.

During my junior research experience, I was thrilled to learn about and improve my skills in Python coding, data mining, managing drone hardware, and the independent work ethic that is required to be an efficient and productive researcher. I learned the value of being meticulous and the importance of putting in the hours of consistent lab time. In STEM coursework, I have found that the number of hours I put into a project will result in a perfectly balanced amount of productivity and reward. In research, I learned (time and time again) that hours of work may result in only a small fraction of progress towards the end goal. Learning to appreciate the process and embrace the roadblocks is what made me a more effective researcher, beyond garnering greater technical skill or comfort within the lab. When I began the project, I imagined perfect drone flights and expansion of the project threefold. Months in, when I had been stunted for weeks at a time by things like a power outage, a missing comma in thousands of lines of code, or a few faulty software updates of the LPS system, I learned to greatly appreciate one simple drone flight experiment with traceable or random error. I am thrilled to begin my senior year and senior thesis with a better understanding of the work it takes to complete an effective research project and the appropriate scale to take on in order to make a research project meaningful. 

Teaching about Health over Zoom

By Frances Murray, FCLC 2022

Peer Health Exchange volunteers behind a table in a high school

During my junior year at Fordham, I began working with an organization called Peer Health Exchange (PHE). Their mission is “to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources to make healthy decisions.” College aged students serve as teachers to discuss health, sex, drug, and mental health education with high school students. PHE gave students the knowledge on how to interact with health providers so that the students would be able to self advocate and communicate their own needs. The program primarily looks for educators from marginalized communities so that the students are able to feel comfortable discussing topics that may not be brought up in class or at home. PHE exchange also provides resources and teaches the students how to utilize them. 

When I first heard of PHE, I became very interested as learning and discussing health is important in my life. I am a natural science major and pre-Med because I admire the body and understand how mechanisms and medicines function. While I am undecided about what field of medicine I want to study, I have always been interested in women’s health because of the way that the doctor must build a relationship and learn about the life of the patient. I have also decided to minor in anthropology because it allows me to study the way that medicine, institutions, and society are impacting people’s lives and how we live in the world. As I began to look into PHE, I felt that I could really benefit from volunteering because it would allow me to use my own knowledge of wellness and work with younger students to understand it in their own ways. In many ways, PHE aligned with a lot of my beliefs about how health involves the entire life of the patient. A 15 minute doctor’s visit could never begin to unravel this, and so by teaching people to examine and understand their own health needs, they are more able to seek correct treatment and explain themselves to professionals. 

While working with PHE, I taught 3 classes at various high schools in the city over Zoom. I had one or two other educators that I would normally be working with and I reported to coordinators from Fordham who had been with PHE for more time. Each week I had a lesson that was constructed by PHE to teach to the students. I normally adjusted the information a bit so that it fit the needs of the class. For example, one teacher I worked with was very invested in PHE and so we would meet before class to make sure the students would understand the material. Her students came from places of low socioeconomic standing and it was a sensitive topic for them to talk about. So we would substitute those parts of the lesson by talking about race or gender, topics of high importance that the students were able to relate to much more. In addition to teaching, I would meet with Fordham’s PHE division with weekly meetings over Discord. We would meet to talk about events and messages for the week, and we would learn about topics that would be brought up in the class. These would be lessons for the educators on topics like being transgender, race marginalization, and helping the kids to open up over Zoom. 

Working with the students was the best part of PHE, but I truly feel like I got cheated because of COVID. The most fun in the classes would be when the students would comment and as questions, but it was really hard being over Zoom. At the very end of the year, some kids were back in class and the participation increased. Some of the classes had a lot more participation than others. However, two of my classes were freshmen students so they had never even met their classmates in person. Getting them to open up enough to ask questions about mental health or sex could be very hard for this reason. All of my host teachers expressed excitement about going back to school in person because of the toll of staying at home on the students. At times we would also talk about more complex issues like microaggressions, privilege, or  intersectionality, and at times it was hard to gauge whether or not these topics were sticking. I personally had remembered learning about these things in high school, but  it took until college for me to really process and understand the reasoning behind these ideas. Despite the challenges, so many students did love to talk. We had great conversations about alcohol and genitalia at 8:20am!

Overall, I really enjoyed working for PHE exchange. Like any job or volunteer work, there is so much communication, learning, and interaction that are required. I was happy to share my own knowledge and even more so when the students would ask thoughtful questions. It was a great experience and many times I felt myself wishing that I had this type of health education when I was in high school.

My Internship at Busted Halo

By Jillian Rice, FCLC 2022

Busted Halo website logo

After a spreadsheet full of nearly 30 internship applications, most of which I got no response from, I was feeling dejected about finding a position in my dream field of editing. I’d been an editor on our school newspaper for three years, but apparently that line on my resume about my strong eye for detail wasn’t enough for publishing houses or other similar publications to think I was right for the job.

Then came an email from Busted Halo, the media company owned by the Paulist Fathers at St. Paul’s next door. Would I like a Zoom interview? I sat down at my desk under my loft bed in between studying for my Greek final which I had later that day, and long story short, I got the job. I began working remotely for them in June 2021, and I’ve continued (still remote) through the fall semester. My life plan is to be an editor — somewhere, somehow — and as a Catholic Studies concentrator, this was pretty perfect.

We interns do a variety of things for the company, from posting on the website to answering Instagram DMs, and I even spent a lot of time adding captions to YouTube videos. I went into it expecting to learn more about editing in the real world (and I have; no question about it), but I’ve picked up so many more skills along the way. 

Since we’re a small team, I’m never simply editing, though the editors do play to interns’ strengths (and they don’t give me graphic illustration work to do all the time!). I’ve written more tweets than I thought one human could write (but I am now very familiar with TweetDeck) and even been a guest on a radio show!

As Esme said on one of her posts, coming into a place and creating graphics for them isn’t just making pretty pictures. They have a brand (or in our case, a set of colors on Canva), and anything you make has to be visually appealing and not too busy. As someone with very little graphic design knowledge besides what I’ve picked up by osmosis on the newspaper, even seeing that a graphic I made is getting posted on Instagram is still a thrill. 

Working at my internship is just like being at Fordham, since two of my three bosses graduated from Rose Hill, and both my fellow interns over the summer were Fordham students, too. It seems that a lot of media publications in New York like hiring Fordham students, which bodes well for us newspaper kids as we graduate! 

At Busted Halo, when the news came out that Fr. McShane was retiring, we had a little gossip session as to whom we thought the next president might be. A few weeks later, we were sharing Fordham parody videos that different comedy groups created while we were each at Fordham. It’s conversations like these that make me a bit less terrified to graduate and leave the world of schooling.

This internship has given me very marketable skills like social media writing and engagement, and working with experienced professionals has helped me understand and hone my (already plentiful!) love for grammar even more. I’ve also learned that trying to juggle an internship, many hours a week at the campus newspaper, five classes, and time to relax or sleep isn’t easy — my advice to anyone reading this: please be honest with yourself about how much you can handle in a semester, and remember to give yourself time to enjoy Fordham and New York (our campus, after all) on top of your other duties. 

A Summer Spent Uncovering More

By Ritamarie Pepe, FCLC 2022

Uncovering More website logo

Professional social media is challenging — despite what your boomer parents may think. It’s more than just pretty pictures and emojis. It takes high caliber organization, research, creativity, project management, and much more. With my previous communications experience, especially in planning, leading, and designing social media initiatives, I have been privy to the hard work that goes into creating successful social media content. However, the knowledge of the difficulty of social media creation and curation could not prepare me for the time and energy I would (willingly and excitedly) pour into my social media internship with Uncover More.

Uncover More is a guide offering hyper-local and tailored experiences on what to eat, do, see, and shop in NYC at your fingertips through social media accounts, a newsletter, and the UncoverMore app! The founder and CEO is Arianna Sartzetakis, a proud Brooklynite who balances her full time job in finance with this passion project. 

My first lesson with Arianna and Uncover More was the importance of networking. Arianna is the sister of one of my best friends — therefore, I had heard a lot about Arianna and Uncover More. I had been following Uncover More for years before I had the opportunity to connect with Arianna during a Q&A panel I organized for my online publication, grain of salt mag. Although my role was to moderate the conversation between Arianna and our other guests, I couldn’t help but grow more and more personally fascinated with Uncover More’s origin story and the work Arianna puts into the brand behind the scenes. I wanted to know even more. So, after the Q&A event, I reached out to Arianna to set up a coffee chat in our neighborhood to hear more about the Uncover More story, the in’s and out’s of working in social media, and ultimately, after falling even more in love with Uncover More, to pitch myself as a potential intern. Months later, I look back on that moment and pride myself on having the courage to ask for the opportunity to work with Uncover More and gain invaluable experience — you never know what may happen by simply chatting with people and asking questions!

One of my first assignments for Uncover More immediately thrust me into the world of content creation. Arianna asked me to attend the Flower Festival in the Meatpacking district to gather TikTok and Instagram content — which sounds simpler than it was. Not only did I have to worry about creating engaging and aesthetically pleasing content, I had to do so while dealing with large and bustling crowds who kept interrupting my picture perfect shot. My simple task of taking video and photography content turned into a deeper dive on camera angles, camera functions, and most importantly, taking the shot. By “taking the shot,” I generally mean putting myself out there; in this scenario, I am referring to moving past my insecurity about how “weird” I looked to outsiders while trying to grab the best content, and even getting over having to be a bit pushy in the crowd in order to secure what I needed. Social media content creation is certainly not for the faint of heart, and you must be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone! Even though this experience definitely challenged me, there was nothing better than seeing my video and photography featured on the Uncover More social media channels.

Besides content creation, I focused a lot on caption copywriting. As with content creation, there is more to caption writing than meets the eye. Uncover More has a specific caption writing style, and captions are very well researched in an effort to “do the research for you so that you can spend more time uncovering!” This research can include information like special deals, age restrictions, extra costs, fun facts, and more. Consequently, a lot of time is spent researching each recommendation. Furthermore, this information must be transformed into consumable, concise, and engaging information “bites” written in Uncover More’s friendly and whimsical, yet informative, tone. It definitely took a lot of practice in the beginning, but this experience has been incredibly valuable in improving my writing skills for different styles and across different social media platforms. 

My internship with Uncover More has provided me with the opportunities and experiences I was looking for in order to improve my communication skills. With most of my communication experience in newsletter writing and brainstorming and planning social media content and initiatives, I felt like I was missing the “hands on” work that I needed in order to understand every step of the content creation and curation process. Working with Uncover More allowed me to get down to the “nitty gritty” of professional social media, which will only make me a better professional and leader in the communication industry.

Besides the professional growth, I appreciate Uncover More for the personal growth it has inspired within me. I’m a workaholic, and sometimes find it difficult to step away from my work in order to enjoy what are supposed to be the best years of my life. But when your “job” encourages you to explore the city you were born and raised in and love so deeply and motivates you to keep “uncovering” more in your everyday life, it does not feel like work — it feels like a celebration of life.