Humanities and innovation: A Research Park intern’s perspective

LAS student Cherish Recera has found her niche at the Research Park

LAS junior Cherish Recera poses for a photo in front of a Research Park promotional table at the State Farm Center.Cherish Recera is a junior pursuing a dual degree in English and Community Health. As a senior-level intern at the Research Park, she manages her own team in order to develop marketing strategies for the Park and for Illinois-based clients.

When I became an English major at the University of Illinois, I never expected that I would become a Senior Communications Project Management Intern at EnterpriseWorks, the startup incubator of the Research Park. If you asked freshman-year-me to define “startup incubator” or “technology hub,” I don’t think you would’ve received a precise definition since I typically associate those terms with the STEM field.

Not pursuing STEM-related degrees, such as computer science and chemistry or molecular and cellular biology, made me think that I wouldn’t be able to find a position at the Research Park. It’s true that the Research Park is always interested in taking on engineering interns. However, there’s always a need for an intern who can conduct research and analysis or who can support marketing and management. My choice to pursue an English degree made me a unique candidate because my communication ability is well-developed for a fast-paced, professional environment.

Some people equate studying English with preparing to become a teacher or editor, but that doesn’t have to be the case. I taught myself to communicate in multiple mediums and be flexible when it comes to targeting audiences, and this background continues to be helpful as I manage social media-related marketing for the Research Park. If you follow the University of Illinois Research Park on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn (and you should if you don’t already!), you’ll see a multitude of posts created and published by my Communications team. From job posts to event promotion to startup recognition, our team is responsible for making sure that Research Park happenings are appropriately covered and shared with followers.

My work at the Research Park isn’t just about marketing strategy. My position allows me to be a Communications Consultant for small businesses south of Interstate I-80 and for startups within EnterpriseWorks. I’ve assisted 13 businesses as of the start of 2020 with a variety of projects, including website development, marketing strategy and research, rebranding, and copy-editing. It’s rewarding to know that I’m able to directly and positively impact businesses as they work to get themselves off the ground, and I do find myself checking in on the content I’ve assisted them with to see if they’ve built on it.

Incoming students who have relevant experience from high school for internships posted on the Research Park job board are invited to apply to those positions. It is possible to land an internship as a freshman, and you’ll jump right into projects that directly affect the company. Forget running coffee – students like you are responsible for running data analytics, research projects, and much more. There are approximately 800 student interns at the Park, and you could be one of them in the near future.

Being a student in the College of LAS has given me the opportunity to do impactful work at the Research Park. I encourage future and current students to keep an eye on the Research Park job board because your insight and experiences matter when it comes to driving its constant flow of innovation. Throughout your college career, seek opportunities at the Research Park to educate yourself beyond the classroom. You could find yourself talking about career goals with a startup founder at a Women in Tech luncheon, discovering what EnterpriseWorks has to offer during a weekly tour, or immersing yourself in other cultures at an art exhibit or holiday celebration. The College of LAS and Research Park await you at Illinois, no matter your chosen background.

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Cherish Recera