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Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Selby Gardens selected to participate in Smithsonian and Emerson Collective’s Innovative Summer Internship Program

SARASOTA, Fla. -September 1, 2021:  Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Selby Gardens) is proud to announce its selection and participation in the Smithsonian Affiliations pilot initiative that increases access to internship opportunities for college-level students. In partnership with Emerson Collective, the pilot internship program was designed to employ and activate youth around the country with an opportunity to connect with communities through digital learning.  This pilot was engineered to reinvent Smithsonian Affiliations’ approach to summer internships.

The Smithsonian Affiliate Digital Learning and Engagement Internship, structured as an entirely virtual experience, introduced 75 rising sophomores, juniors and seniors in college to the impact of museum work and empowered students to address complex global challenges. Students were selected from an applicant pool of 1,595 young people and 307 colleges and universities. As a cohort, they represent just under 60 colleges and universities and worked from June 14 to Aug. 6 in communities spanning from Washington, D.C., to Alaska.

Selby Gardens hosted three interns in the pilot program. Interns at Selby Gardens focused on We Dream a World: African American Landscape Painters of Mid-Century Florida, The Highwaymen and are as follows:

  • Ania Ty, from Oregon State University and pursuing a double major in Political Science and Public Policy with minors in Ethnic Studies and Public Health, focused on the art and life of Mary Ann Carroll, the only woman in the group of African American landscape painters now known as the Highwaymen.
  • Miles Mikofsky, from the University of Chicago and pursuing a B.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Creative Writing, compared the work and life of the Highwaymen with the work and life of A.E. “Bean” Backus, who influenced several of the Highwaymen artists.
  • Samantha Wetherell, from University of Arizona and pursing dual degrees—a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law, and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Water Resource Economics, documented the value of the Highwaymen artists in depicting the historic landscape of Florida, in contrast to the much-altered landscape that exists today.

“We were elated to be selected to participate in the pilot program,” says Jennifer Rominiecki, President & CEO of Selby Gardens. “Not only were we able to connect diverse students from around the country to our mission and programs, but we were able to dig deeper into the fabric of our exhibit. Furthermore, we were able to share this body of work with an international audience.”

“With the support of Emerson Collective, the Smithsonian and its Affiliate partners hope this pilot internship will create future museum advocates and change leaders by helping students understand the role museums can play in addressing our biggest challenges and continue to inspire them to improve the world around them,” said Lonnie Bunch, Smithsonian Secretary. “We are looking forward to seeing what the students create with our Affiliates’ content, resources and expertise.”

“This internship program is not only a gift for the students who are enrolled in it—it is a gift for all of us,” said Laurene Powell Jobs, founder and president of Emerson Collective. “By offering students from underestimated communities the chance to draw upon the Smithsonian Institution’s extraordinary collections, this collaboration is fostering a new and better understanding of our shared history while empowering a new generation of change agents.”

Purposefully designed as a collaborative virtual opportunity, the internship provided access to high-quality, paid learning experiences for a diverse group of college students regardless of their physical location. Working in virtual teams of three, interns were matched with 25 Smithsonian Affiliate organizations across the country, taking away the barriers of physical residency and associated costs that can deter students from being able to participate in internships.

“This pilot is about better understanding our reach and ability to activate youth around the country who would not otherwise have such opportunities,” said Jamie Van Leeuwen, director of youth and community engagement at Emerson Collective. “With the collective challenges we face as a country, it is critical now more than ever that we turn to our young leaders to help us respond to the needs of our communities.”

Throughout the internship, the Smithsonian was the connector between the interns, the Affiliate organizations and Emerson Collective, providing access to experts, conversations with Smithsonian leadership and enrichment opportunities that aim to engage the students with each other and their Affiliate organization. Emerson Collective provides programming opportunities that help facilitate conversations between interns and leaders in areas such as education, immigration and racial justice. Students received training on the Smithsonian Learning Lab platform and produced three educational modules, or collections, for each Affiliate to be published for a public audience targeting middle and high school students. At the conclusion of the internship, students participated in an online capstone event where interns presented their Learning Lab collections and shared how their understanding of the core topic areas changed as a result of their work.

You can access the Learning Labs created by Selby Gardens’ interns here:

For more information, please contact Lynn H. Bates,


L: Ania Ty M: Miles Mikofsky R: Samantha Wetherell

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