Intern Opportunities

Skills Learned Through Immersion

Head Shot of Cera Southerland

The best way to learn something new is to be fully immersed in it.  That is true for me with learning new languages, skills, or techniques – that is also how I learned to take complex, technical lectures and turn them into simple articles for anyone to read.

Within the past month, I was given the grand opportunity to sit in on two of the lectures hosted by the Blue Bell Lecture Series on campus.  The first was the lecture given by Chief Bioscientist of BP John Pierce about a month ago.

Pierce talked about the changing demand of energy and the future of biofuels in the current energy demands.  The lecture was filled with technical gibberish that was beyond my grasp of understanding.  To say the information went over my head would be an understatement.

I was blown away by Pierce’s knowledge on biofuels, energy, and bioscience, and his role in BP to maximize their benefit from the application of bioscience.  The way he spoke about the future of energy and what people are now looking at as energy sources was eloquent, yet scientific.

The biggest struggle was pushing past the technicality and science that composed his highly intelligent lecture. It took hours of listening to the recording of his lecture and taking notes to sift through the technical mush.

The next step was forming the story.  I learned a very valuable trick in story writing from my boss Amy and my fellow intern Hannah Rogers – find the quotes you want in your story and fill in the gaps from there.

The way I see it, it’s similar to a puzzle or a game of Tetris.  I have the pieces I need and all I need to do is fill in the remaining pieces.

With the quotes and the technicalities broken down into simple phrases, the story came together with ease (finally).

Just last week, I was at another Blue Bell Lecture by Molly Jahn, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who spoke about sustainability and agriculture. Again, the science that encompassed the lecture proved to be out of my area of expertise.

But with the same technique and practice, I was able to break down the technical talk and create a story for all to understand.

Had I not already been through this process once, I would have struggled just as much to write the article on yet another distinguished and intelligent person in the agriculture industry.

I am always up for a challenge and new knowledge, and the two lectures gave me just that.  But just as I said, the best way to learn anything new is to be immersed by it.

I immersed myself in talk that was beyond my understanding, listened to recordings repeatedly until I understood what I heard, and broke it down so that others could understand as well.

It’s experiences like this that I truly cherish as an intern; the opportunities that allow me to learn something new and to discover a new way of composing a story are invaluable.


Cera Southerland, ’13, is a senior agricultural communications and journalism major.  She is also Chief Student Leader of IAAS and an Ambassador & Mentor for Study Abroad in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.

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