Anne Taylor (PhD, Sociology)

Describe your project:

While working as a GPE Communications Fellow in the Office of the Dean at the Yale
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, I worked on two projects. The first was a student
research spotlight of doctoral candidate, Da’Von Boyd, from the departments of Political
Science and African American Studies. In this spotlight, I interviewed Boyd about the
recent Best Paper Award he won from the National Conference of Black Political
Scientists, and wrote up a corresponding feature story that was published on the website
and publicized in Yale Today. The second project was a week-long social media
campaign about commencement, which included Tweet threads featuring graduating
students, including Sociology PhD Margaret Traeger, English PhD David M. de León,
and MCDB PhD Gadareth Higgs, as well as information about the event. This campaign
was launched on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

What are the main skills that you acquired?

In this GPE fellowship, I set out to learn more about the priorities and duties of jobs in
higher education communications offices. I have a background in journalistic writing and
social media, but have never applied those skills specifically to the university
environment. I am also a sociologist studying digital media, communication and
community formation – so this was a practical opportunity to hone skills that I am usually
observing and analyzing from afar. I appreciated the opportunity to dust off my writing
and social media skills, but what I learned most was how to pitch stories and prioritize
public relations initiatives in a fast-moving environment. This is definitely a skill that takes
time and experience to refine. My mentor, April Swieconek, who serves as the Director
of Communications for GSAS, was generous with her time, an engaging teacher, and
candid about the role. There were projects I wanted to take on that were too big in
scope, and April helped me narrow it down to something feasible and effective. These
are essential professional skills, of course, and I am so glad to have them in my toolkit.

What were the biggest challenges and learning opportunities of the fellowship?

The biggest challenge in this fellowship, I found, was scoping projects so they were
feasible given the time and resources at my disposal. Doing this fellowship during the
pandemic meant that I could not have the same amount of latitude and flexibility in
content creation (e.g. for most of the semester, I could not come to campus to take
photos or research stories due to the pandemic). I had to be creative and entrepreneurial
to think of projects that I could do from home via digital tools. However, this was a
unique challenge that I might not have otherwise experienced, and now I know that
should I need to call on these experiences in the future – say, perhaps, for digital
ethnographic research or communications consulting – I will be well equipped to adapt in
a fast-paced world.