A student from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford is witnessing firsthand as history is made at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week.
Troi Williams, a public relations major from Bala Cynwyd, about 5 miles north of Philadelphia, is interning in the communications department in Studio 2016, the convention's on-site, full-service media hub at the Wells Fargo Center. Part of her responsibility is working with others to schedule national TV and radio interviews in the studio for the convention surrogates, delegates and super delegates.
“I can't really put into words how amazing this experience has been so far,” Williams said. “I've learned so much and met so many great and inspirational people.”
The work is keeping her busy during the five hours she works each day. Her days leading up to the convention were hectic and are even more so now that it's underway. However, she's not too busy to overlook the historical significance of this convention, particularly for a young woman.
Williams will be there to watch as the Democratic Party chooses Hillary Clinton as its nominee for president of the United States, the first time a woman has ever been nominated by one of the two major parties. While other women have tried - Shirley Chisolm unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in 1972, and Margaret Chase Smith failed to get the GOP nod in 1964 - it's happening this time.
“It feels unreal to know that I'll be able to say, 'I was there,'” Williams said, adding that it's been exciting the last few weeks to watch the Wells Fargo Center be transformed into the venue that will showcase the convention and set the stage for the first female presidential nominee. “It's honestly one of the most amazing things I've witnessed, and I've scaled Mount Fuji and seen the ancient city of Pompeii. But this takes the cake.”
Williams secured her cake-taking internship thanks, in part, to recommendations from two of her professors who knew she'd be perfect for it.
“Troi is fierce,” said Tim Ziaukas, professor of public relations and her adviser, “fiercely intelligent, fiercely committed and fiercely brave. As a PR major with a focus on broadcast communications, she will fit right in at an event like the Democratic Convention. She will do herself - and us - proud.”
Jeff Guterman, associate professor of broadcast communications, added, “Troi is an absolutely ideal Pitt-Bradford student to participate in the DNC internship. She's a powerful and moving public speaker who is passionate about her beliefs.”
Ziaukas, who advises Pitt-Bradford's student newspaper, The Source, said when Williams returns to campus this fall, she'll have a chance to report on her experience and the unfolding campaign, which he's looking forward to.
All of the convention's high action - and high drama - is truly a perfect fit for Williams, who isn't one of those college students satisfied just to sit in class and listen to a lecture. She needs to talk. (When she's in class, she's a frequent contributor.) She has to be on the move. She seems most comfortable surrounded by people.
At Pitt-Bradford, Williams served as president of the Student Activities Council, sat on the executive board of Student Government Association and was a resident advisor. Additionally, she and several of her classmates have been part of a student panel to answer questions from and give unvarnished views of campus life to prospective students visiting during open houses.
When she's not on campus, she's all over the place, literally.
Two summers ago, she spent two weeks in Japan. Last summer, she was an intern in the events department at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, one of the oldest centers for science education, where she planned and coordinated a wide range of events, from weddings to an NFL conference.
In fall 2015, she juggled her classes along with an internship with the Pennsylvania Wilds. The next semester she studied in London, and, typical of Williams, she didn't stay put. In her spare time, she traveled all over Europe, which she chronicled in her blog, “The Life of T.”
Things soon will be winding down a bit for Williams. Her DNC internship ends Aug. 5. Three weeks later, she'll be back on campus to start her senior year. She says she's going to take it a little easier this year so she can assume a more active role in the African American Student Union and focus on serving as managing editor of The Source.
“My experience has been something very special at Pitt-Bradford,” Williams said. “I have met the greatest people I have ever known at this school. I have also found faculty and staff who have helped me to become a better person.”