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UM Student Wins Phi Beta Kappa Writing Internship

Triple major Kathryn James is a 2017 Phi Beta Kappa Writing Intern. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Kathryn James may not make a penny on any of the articles she writes for The Key Reporter, Phi Beta Kappa’s online newsletter, but the University of Mississippi student is grateful to have been awarded a writing internship from the prestigious academic honor society.

“I was surprised, as I didn’t know the position existed, honored that Dr. (John) Samonds thought of me to represent the university in the competition, and humbled to be chosen,” said James, a senior triple majoring in public policy leadership, economics and Southern studies from Mandeville, Louisiana.
“While I do not endeavor to write professionally, earning this position testifies to my ability to engage with other nationally recognized undergraduates.”
PBK’s writing internship program is primarily for juniors and seniors majoring in liberal arts or sciences who attend institutions where chapters are sheltered. Interns must make a five-month commitment to the program and prepare a minimum of six publishable articles for The Key Reporter.
Interns write and conduct research from their home campuses. Besides being good writers, interns need to be able to work independently and meet deadlines with a minimum of oversight and supervision. They must accept assigned topics and/or pitch their stories to the editor for approval before a completed article is submitted.
“I submitted my first piece on March 1 and have submitted two more since,” James said. “My writing has, thus far, profiled members of Phi Beta Kappa who break barriers in their membership, scholarship and/or professional lives.
“I have profiled the first African-American woman to gain membership in Phi Beta Kappa, a recent graduate and national scholarship winner – Truman and Mitchell scholarships – working in racial opportunity gaps, and a woman pioneer of computing language.”
James’ first published article is available at https://www.keyreporter.org/PbkNews/PbkNews/Details/2202.html.
The organization does not guarantee that every submitted article will be published. But even with no pay or guarantee of publication, it is an honor for James to have been chosen as an intern, said Luanne Buchanan, UM instructional associate professor of Spanish and secretary-treasurer of the campus PBK chapter.
“Kathryn earned the honor,” Buchanan said. “Dr. (Sandra) Spiroff encouraged her to apply for it.”
Spiroff, associate professor of mathematics and chapter vice president, was made aware of James’ writing talents by John Samonds, associate dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.
“After she expressed interest in the internship, I solicited writing samples from her, offered some small critiques and put her name forward to the society,” Spiroff said. “I was very impressed with Kathryn’s writing ability.
“I was hopeful that she would receive the internship since I have rarely seen a student write so well, engaging the interest of the reader.”
Each intern receives full credit for his/her work. Those who complete the program receive a formal certificate from Phi Beta Kappa and may request a letter of recommendation from the program.
“I see this opportunity as an extension of the honor that is Phi Beta Kappa,” James said. “It speaks to the confidence my university community has in my academic ability.”
For more information about the Phi Beta Kappa writing internship program, visit https://keyreporter.org/PbkNews/PbkNews/Details/912.html or email Spiroff at spiroff@olemiss.edu. The next deadline for applications is April 21 and the chapter is seeking interested students.
By Edwin Smith

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