Ruth Mullin ’21: LITS, Bryn Mawr College

Name: Ruth Mullin
Class Year: 2021
Major: Mathematics
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.

Internship Organization: LITS
Job Title: Summer digital intern
Location: Canaday Library

This summer I’m working with LITS as one of the digital interns. There are five of us, and we’re split between two projects. The project I’m working on involves building a language-learning website with the goal of revitalizing an indigenous language. There are no native speakers of the language left, which presents some challenges, but luckily, we have access to hours of field tapes and a 700-page text that form the foundation of the website. I’m working on two out of the three sub-projects. The first one is focused on the actual development and design of the website. For the second one, we’re figuring out ways to make supplemental media like vocabulary slides using JavaScript libraries. The entire project has already been going on for decades, so we are doing as much as we can to help this summer, but the website won’t be complete for many years to come!

I first found this job when I was browsing Handshake. As I read the description, I was immediately intrigued by the technological and creative aspects of the internship. I’m majoring in math, and I’m always looking for ways to combine that with some of my other interests (such as web design, data handling, art, and my computer science minor) and explore how they work together. I thought this would be a great opportunity to explore some things outside my major to get some ideas about what I might want to do in the future. I’ve also been surprised by how applicable some lessons I’ve learned in classes have been!

I didn’t know a lot about the project I would be working on before I started my internship this summer, but I did expect to be working closely with the project sponsors and designing the face of the website. This was true in some ways, but I was surprised by a lot of aspects of the project. I definitely am working with the project sponsors, but there is a lot of physical distance between us, which was unexpected! One person is at Swarthmore College, a few are in New York, and one is even in California. The distance has been a challenge in some ways, but to get around it we have weekly phone meetings and occasional trips to Swarthmore. Also, everyone is very accessible by email and quick to answer questions. Another unexpected thing was how much of the project would involve actual coding. Of course, I knew there would be some HTML and CSS work, but it turns out that my sub-projects also require things like PHP and a JavaScript library called D3.

With all the unexpected things I’ve encountered during this internship, I’ve had to learn to adapt very quickly. One of the ways I’ve adapted to the surprise elements is to practice being a self-motivated learner and teaching myself new skills and coding languages. From the very beginning of the internship, we were kind of given the tools to learn and then sent off to figure things out. I like this way of learning, even if sometimes it’s hard to stay on track. Additionally, there are so many people in LITS that I know I can ask for help! I know that being able to learn on my own and find resources will be very important in the future; during my time at Bryn Mawr and after.

Another skill I’ve been learning about is project management. During my first week, we had a project management workshop which has been helpful. The project I’m working on is often very open-ended and it requires a lot of planning on my part. This skill can translate to almost any situation, which makes it extra valuable.