KOKOMO, Ind. — Jennifer Hensley dreams of working in a Chicago museum.
An internship helped her make connections to take the first step towards that dream, while gaining hands-on experience as a historian and event planner.
Hensley, along with three other Indiana University Kokomo history and political science majors, helped plan a statewide historic preservation conference in Kokomo. Along the way, she met historians, preservation professionals, and museum leaders who offered to serve as references for her as she seeks her first job.
“It was a great opportunity to meet people who can help us get started in this field, while gaining valuable hands-on training I can use on my résumé,” she said. “It really opened my eyes to the fact that I love event planning, which gives me another career option.”
Andrew McFarland, associate professor of history, served on the planning committee for Preserving Historic Places: Indiana’s Statewide Preservation Conference, and arranged for the internships. The students gained real world experience in a professional setting, doing applied history.
“I always wanted our campus to be as involved as possible,” he said. “It seemed like a perfect situation, to get our students experience with a professional conference, and to help the conference planners be able to do more to make our city appealing to visitors from around the state.”
Hensley, from Greentown, and Michael Meadows worked at the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance’s visitor’s bureau, developing short histories for buildings featured in the conference. They also prepared information for conference goers about restaurants and attractions in the area, and set up venues and provided direction during the conference.
Meadows, from Kokomo, researched buildings highlighted in the conference.
As someone who loves old buildings, he was fascinated by what he learned, and by the chance to visit sites he had never seen from the inside. His favorite was the train depot on Buckeye Street.
“I like to step into an old building and think about who may have been in there, and how it may have touched their lives,” he said. “You can imagine what kinds of people came through, and why they were there.”
It also gave him an idea of what he can do as a career with a major in history and political science.
“I learned how much preparation and effort goes into planning and hosting a conference,” he said.
At the Howard County Historical Society, Brendan White, Greentown; and Diane Frederickson, Kokomo, prepared a bus tour of area historic buildings, researching each one for interesting facts. They also developed presentations to promote the conference, and trained volunteers.
White, who begins a graduate program in history later this year, enjoyed researching the diamond plate glass factory.
“This gave me an opportunity to experience the kind of job I might do as a historian,” he said. “It also gave me a chance to learn to research outside of the IU Kokomo library, using original sources and archives.”
Frederickson learned more about the connection between her hometown and Kokomo.
“I grew up in Chicago, and I didn’t know much about Kokomo,” she said. “I learned there was a connection between the cities, because of the gas boom. A lot of the skyscrapers in Chicago were built with glass made in Kokomo. Looking at the Chicago skyline reminds me of Kokomo now.”
The conference is sponsored by the Indiana Department of Historic Preservation & Archaeology, in partnership with IU and Indiana Landmarks. It is the official forum for preservation issues in Indiana.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.