Chanelle Bergeron, ‘23, has created a freelance-style internship that she hopes will inspire her fellow students to go outside and appreciate the vast array of vegetation on campus. She worked with Assistant Professor of English Dr. Jennifer Burgess, Professor of English Dr. Rebecca Duncan and Grounds Manager Aaron Schettler to create her specific on-campus internship.
While consulting with Dr. Burgess, Bergeron made it clear what she didn’t want to do for her internship. “I said, ‘I don’t want to be working for a company. I don’t want to be doing tech things; that’s just not my interest whatsoever.’ I want to be working with my other strengths and skills as an herbalist,” she said. Bergeron has been “practicing plant medicine for over a decade” as a professional apothecary, and her interest for her internship included “combin[ing] that skillset…with something that could overlap well on campus because [Meredith’s] campus is just so stunning with all of the plants out there,” she explained. By being persistent about what she wanted, Dr. Burgess, Dr. Duncan and Schettler, in what Bergeron called a “Meredith team effort,” created an internship that combines her love of nature and the writing aspect of her major.
Passersby on Meredith’s campus can see evidence of Bergeron’s progress over the course of the semester. The main project of her internship is selecting, researching and documenting a handful of the plants on campus. The information Bergeron collects is written and stored in a database that can be accessed through QR codes on small black labels on the plants.
Once she collects enough plants for the database, Bergeron hopes to create a scavenger hunt for younger campus visitors. She also looks forward to creating “an herbal literary plant walk” which she describes as “a documented brochure of some really incredible plants that have made their way into our medicine and kitchen cabinets and into great works of literature.” While the idea of the brochure is “specific to the English department,” she has confidence that it would be appreciated by anyone who wants to explore the campus.
Bergon’s internship often has her working outside, strolling around campus and collecting plants. “Our campus is absolutely stunning,” she said. “The fact that [my internship] happens outdoors is one of my favorite things; I’m not having to necessarily stare at a screen all day, which is helpful for me.” She also loves writing about plants and teaching others about them, so “it’s a win-win for [her].”
Bergeron’s internship was created from scratch, and because it is newly formulated, it has its own set of challenges.“There’s no preexisting structure,” Bergeron stated. “[We’re] creating something out of nothing.” Fortunately, Bergeron is thankful and happy for the challenge because it will be minimized for the next person who wants to take on the opportunity. “Who knows if someone will walk on campus and want this exact internship again, but if they do, then the groundwork is already there,” she explained. “We’re really carving out the path, and that is both a blessing and a challenge.”
Inspiration for the internship came from the Creative Nonfiction class Bergeron took with Assistant Professor of English Ashley Hogan in which she decided she wanted to develop a narrative about medicinal plants. Because the internship requires a lot of writing, Bergeron has the opportunity to apply her skills in research, self editing and being succinct with her wording. “Pulling several ideas together and putting them into something readable and understandable has definitely helped me with this internship,” she said. “I feel like the more I write and the more I read, the better I get at writing.”
When asked if she would recommend her internship to others, Bergeron said, “Yes, 100 percent.” She sees this internship as an opportunity for students to go outside and experience nature. “I think when we forget that we’re connected to the natural world and that we share this planet with other creatures, whether it’s a squirrel or an oak tree, we’re really losing so much of our connection to life and our purpose for being here,” she stated. Her advice for students with an interest in taking an internship is: “Follow your interests, even if that means taking on an internship that doesn’t look conventional…[It may not] seem as ‘lucrative’ in the real world, but if it’s something that you have a deep passion, or at least a curiosity for, I think that’s way more valuable than doing something just because you think you should. Don’t be shy to say what you need and want.”
For more about Chanelle and her apothecary business, visit her website.
By Erin Wendorf, Copy Editor