By Richard LeComte
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Dorian Cleveland likes history — so much so he made it his major.
“It's always been a passion of mine,” said Cleveland, a University of Kentucky senior from Lexington. “I’ve liked it since I was a little kid. A lot of my elders would tell us that history is one of those things that is always impacting the present, no matter how you interpret it. And I had really good history teachers in high school. I would say that's where my passion for it comes from.”
But translating passion into a career can be daunting. Students often need internships and other experiences in their undergraduate careers to help focus their studies and give them a taste of what their interests can lead to. That’s why UK’s College of Arts & Sciences is starting the Workforce Ready Wildcats fund. It’s designed to help students pay expenses related to internships, career services, professional development opportunities, mentorship activities, and hands-on learning. Donors can give to the fund on One Day for UK on April 19.
For example, Cleveland received UK help to carry out hybrid internships during and after the COVID pandemic with groups in Louisville.
"My first task was to help create an exhibit that would talk about how the city of Louisville sustained the institution of slavery,” Cleveland said. "This goes from small businesses to groceries to manufacturing firms such as cotton-bagging factories to the slave traders themselves being able to operate within the city. We also looked at some of the border towns like New Albany, Indiana, and we focused a little bit on Lexington as well. We looked at old newspapers, old receipts — all of that — and luckily a lot of this was already digitally available. “
In his second internship, Cleveland worked on building a display about Jerry Abramson, Louisville’s first Jewish mayor who went on to serve as lieutenant governor and as a director in the Obama White House.
“He has his own catalog of documents about his terms,” Cleveland said. “He also wrote his own genealogy, and that allowed us to include his grandfather and his great-grandfather. And then we used online sources to corroborate the tree, including Ancestry.com and other online databases.”
Cleveland appreciates the opportunities to serve in these internships because they dovetail with his career goals.
"What I want to do when I graduate is to work in museum curation or become a head museum creator,” Cleveland said. "This involves me doing basically the same task that I did through these internships - digging into old material and using it to create an exhibit or at least build the foundations of an exhibition.”
Workforce Ready Wildcats helps students like Cleveland begin building toward their career goals even before they graduate.
“These opportunities definitely put me in an environment where I gained skills that will help me pursue my career goals," he said.