Disability Studies Community Blog
Written by Jess Gallagher
“I can confidently say that I’ve learned greatly from these internship responsibilities. As I look towards the future, I see, well, a future with DSQ! … I couldn’t possibly imagine leaving when there are so many exciting opportunities ahead!
–Jessica Gallagher, “Disability Studies, in Time” Vol. 41 No. 2 (2021)
Once upon a time…and then and then… I wondered what time could possibly hold for me in a single year. Of course, I didn’t think it would be anything too drastic. After all, I’m a junior in college. You’d think I’d already have my life mapped out the way I wanted, right? Hopes for the future? Some grand idea of what I should do with my life? I wish. When I transferred over to UConn’s main campus, I had no clue what I was doing. I just knew that I needed something. I love college. I’ve never denied that, but a part of me was never really happy. I felt rather lost a majority of the time and, frankly, frightened of what would happen after graduation.
Being one of UConn’s oh-so-loved-and-valuable branch campus students, I felt really detached from the UConn name and campus as a whole. We were never really included in larger UConn conversations nor did we have enough classes to even finish a majority of our majors. In a way, we were just here. Going through the motions and getting our degrees, my friends and I were all pretty much ready to graduate, work, and move forward.
I never wanted to take a moment to pause.
Then, I came across a notification in my email. After half a semester into my junior year, I stumbled upon UConn’s Writing Internship program that was advertised through the English department. Being only after a semester or two since I had officially switched my major from Elementary Education to English, I figured it might be a good opportunity to gain some practical skills that could maybe prepare me for the real world. Of course, I was not a stand-out student or anything (at least in my opinion). I was just your average junior who did some tutoring here and there along with a bit of copyediting. Little did I know, this would work as a backbone for editorial work.
After submitting all my application materials into the English department abyss, I waited to hear back about where I could have possibly been placed. Not having control over where I could go was definitely jarring, but I had at least a little faith that I’d be placed somewhere. And then, I get a call.
Turns out that old honors conversion essay of mine on discrimination in Shakespeare’s Othello got someone’s attention—whether it was Brenda’s or the internship coordinator’s, I have no idea! The phone call couldn’t have been longer than 30 minutes, but in that span of time, a had a name, a place, and a reason as to why I would work where (and that was good enough for me). Since I was ~possibly~ considering graduate school (I really didn’t think it was actually doable for me) and had an interest in publishing, DSQ seemed like it would be a good home for me. And so, I was happy.
“You know, I’m having a hard time gauging how you feel about your placement. Normally, I get to do these in person and I love seeing everyone’s eyes light up when I tell them about their placement”
Ah yes, in the dawn of COVID you cannot see my face. And, since this is a phone call, the only indication of any feelings would have to be through my voice. One problem: I’m monotone the majority of the time. Which, I’d like to clarify, I’ve never seen as a problem—but it adds an air of mystic (or disinterest) based on your interpretation. A fun little quip of mine.
When I first met Brenda though, she liked the sound of my voice. I remember how she liked that it was clear and lower—which were all the things I liked about it. Even if everyone else didn’t. I think that first moment stuck with me the most, and it would be a running theme. Brenda liked when I used my voice. So, I used it often.
I didn’t know anything about Disability Studies going into my internship, but I wanted to learn more. After copy editing for the 41.2 issue, I became more and more interested in Disability Studies and loved all the scholarship I read. It felt like I had finally found it. I found something that I felt passionate about that mattered to me. At the time of my DSQ internship beginnings, I had yet to discover my relationship with my disability. I spent most of my time just keeping quiet, doing my work, and trying to get through school. I felt like I had to rush because I never knew when the next migraine episode would come, or the next moment when I would be able to feel my arms or legs.
So, I rushed.
I cranked out as much work as I could when I could and moved on to the next task. I spent a good portion of my time in and outside of DSQ using what I had learned to understand myself more. Of course, when I met Brenda she knew none of this. I was just a hard-working intern, but I was slowly starting to disclose, I was starting to really embrace who I was. I think that it was because of the DSQ team and community that I was able to see that my disability was just another part of my identity. I no longer made a point to hide my disability, especially with Brenda, Elizabeth, and Kelsey around. They really encouraged me to flourish at DSQ, and I finally felt like I was home. I still do.
I wanted to do more. I wanted to continue to stay at DSQ. I felt like there was so much I still wanted to say and do that leaving after only one semester would be silly. So, I stayed on! Once fall rolled around, I had an amazing co-intern at my side, Gabby. Together, we worked on the website overhaul for DSQ and got the blog off the ground. I worked quite a bit on the Author Style guide, which is still proving to test my patience in a lot of different (fun) ways. Gabby and I even presented at the Research Connections conference here at UConn. We talked all about our work at DSQ and Gabby even plugged the internship program that placed us both with Brenda. You know, you never realize how much you know about your job until you talk about it for four hours straight (or how many books you actually own from the field until you carry them in a box, up a hill, to a presentation).
Aside from the lower back pain, I felt comfortable in my skin. I no longer felt like I was just a reflection in a mirror, peering back at some allusive image I tried to chase. I don’t think I could ever well-describe how grateful I am for the opportunity I was given to work at DSQ. When I say it was a privilege and an honor, I mean that wholeheartedly. I’ve gained some amazing friends along the way, and really learned what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
That one moment in time a year ago changed everything.
Every day that I have lived felt like that first day I started working at DSQ. Yes, I have learned more than I could imagine, but I still feel just as comfortable and accepted as I did on that day. And now that I’ll be doing Disability Studies for the rest of time, I’m excited to see what the future brings for me and DSQ. With Brenda’s guidance, I just finished up my honors thesis on the cross-institutional connections between the Mansfield Training School and the University of Connecticut by reconstructing UConn’s history, rooted in institutionalization. Writing history in the form of a creative nonfiction book was tough of course, but it was because of everything I’ve learned at DSQ about activism, history, and disability rights that I needed to pursue this project. I want to investigate every space I’m in. I need to know more about Disability History and how academia has always been a part of it that needs to be examined. But more importantly, I want to uplift the voices of disabled students, staff, and faculty members. Disability representation in higher education and beyond are all things I plan to work towards for the rest of my scholarly career because of how much DSQ has taught me.
Leaving DSQ as an intern is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. And to Ally (my current co-intern): I’m so happy I was able to see how much you’ve grown this semester throughout your time here. I know that you’re going to make an excellent Disability Studies scholar in the near future (as well as a creative writer!). I loved being able to see your perspective and really watch you own your voice! You always have so many amazing things to say and I’m so happy to see you continue working with DSQ. Thank you for making my last semester before graduation just as fun, engaging, and rewarding as the past two.
I’ll continue working in Disability Studies and will still be around to bother Brenda as much as possible. I don’t plan on going anywhere too far, just to Columbia University! But, in all seriousness, I’m excited to pursue my MA in Human Rights at Columbia, while also focusing on Disability Studies for my thesis.
My time has most certainly not come to a close just yet, and though I’ve finished interning on DSQ Time, I can’t wait to see what realm of time I enter next.
After all, I couldn’t possibly imagine [really] leaving when there are so many exciting opportunities ahead…
*Jess Gallagher has been a DSQ undergraduate intern at the University of Connecticut for 3 semesters: Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022.
This review was published as part of Disability Studies Quarterly, Spring/Summer 2022.
Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated.
Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.