For Anna Lloyd Franks, former JOIP intern and current Creative Director for UAB Digital Media, an interest in problem solving and peacekeeping runs deep.
“I was the oldest of three siblings and often had two to three best friends,” Franks says. “Drama and conflict ruined fun, so if I could come up with common ground to bring everybody back together, we could get back to playing on the playground.” “Problem-solving and peacekeeping are two things I have always been doing,” she explains. “But I have learned to appreciate conflict and the murky journey that we sometimes have to wade through, often with people we disagree with.”
Franks, who participated in the Jean O’Connor-Snyder Internship Program (JOIP) during the 2010 – 2011 school year, cited the autonomy and ideals underpinning the program as assets that piqued her interest in applying.
“We were trusted to guide real people in real communities through really tough discussions.”
“I felt this great responsibility to help people come to common ground, and it was an intriguing idea that one could design a structure for productive conversation and space for inspiring ideas.”
As Franks explains it, the JOIP internship allowed her to gain hands-on experience with relevant issues affecting the Birmingham community. “[During the internship] we worked on research with undergraduate populations about their perspective and involvement (or lack thereof) in politics. We moderated conversations about the issue of poverty. We facilitated a complex discussion at a local church about healthcare, and we walked alongside groups as they addressed the problem of food deserts in Birmingham,” she recalls.
Franks advised that prospective JOIP applicants consider the importance of deliberation over simply having an open-mind–
“Disagreeing is not disrespecting, and the more we learn how to have healthy conversations about things we disagree on, the more likely we can work together.”
Although it has been nearly six years since she participated in JOIP, Franks testified that the skills she honed still come in handy: “That internship experience absolutely influences my daily grind in my job now. Each time I enter a meeting or lead a creative brainstorm, I’m wondering how we can craft our time into something useful, inclusive, solution-oriented, and inspiring to our team.”
Franks exudes enthusiasm for the work she now does, mentoring and managing students in the Media Fellows and Media Internship programs at UAB Digital Media. “At UAB, I get to marry my creative abilities with mentoring students who want to work in this industry,” she explains. “I get to give back to UAB what it gave me by paying it forward to passionate, young, creative students. That’s what I find most rewarding.”
Franks continues, “The best moment is when I see a student who worked on our team learn something new, mature in their relational skills, go on to coveted positions after graduation, and then report back that their experience here helped them get there.”
Franks also spoke to the wealth of civic and community engagement opportunities that the internship provided her, and how a sense of civic responsibility helped inspire her professional work with students at UAB Digital Media. “Universities are an incredible part of the communities they reside in, but even more broadly, they can make an impact that goes far beyond their immediate neighbors,” she attests.
Franks, who has lived in Birmingham since starting her undergraduate studies at UAB, also expressed great optimism for the future of the city she calls home. “Birmingham still struggles as a collection of really different communities rather than as one, common community. I get that, and to a degree, I don’t want to mess that up,” Franks acknowledged. “But it’s those dividing lines that make it difficult to move on big issues like public transportation and quality education,” she says.
“Community organizations can help us bridge the gaps by making us proud of being in Birmingham – calling us to be a part of the greater community,” Franks asserted.
“People are starting to be proud
to live here again.”
By Gabrielle Lamplugh, Civic Fellow