STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection:


Name: Imani Davis

Type of Project: Internship


This summer, I finally had the ability to take on my STEP transformation project. I was fortunate enough to have an internship in the city of Chicago with Steep Theatre Company, an acclaimed storefront theatre (which was once a small grocery store) focused on telling the stories that illuminate larger societal issues.


Being a film and theatre major, I have always known that I wanted to work in the arts but did not know in what capacity. In college, I realized that I love coming up with new ideas and being in a collaborative environment focused on one goal. I love social media and graphic design. I love getting out there and sharing the word about something that I’m passionate about. All of these interests led me to looking more at the business and managing side of the industry. I was surprised and elated to know that internships were offered in these exact fields, which led me right to the doors of Steep. Interning with this company has solidified my decision about my career path. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else than working with theatre and film in the capacity that I did this summer. I learned about not only about the industry, but also about myself and what kind of work I do the best at.


My internship was focused on theatre management and I worked closely with the Executive Director of Steep, Kate Piatt-Eckert. We worked heavily with fundraising and publicity in order to craft an experience around the topics that I’m most passionate about. In the Theatre Management internship, there were many hats that I wore. Some days I would be writing letters to potential donors, other days I was analyzing data for certain pattern, and others I was brainstorming and researching new fundraising and marketing initiatives. In all small arts organizations, the Executive Director wears a great many hats, and while working closely with Steep’s Executive Director, I gained experience in a wide spectrum of theatre management. I was exposed to finance, facilities management, board cultivation, contract administration, individual and organizational giving, marketing, PR, and myriad other functions and had the opportunity to design projects to meet my individual academic and professional goals. Fundraising was never something that I thought that I would be good at but I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. When breaking it down, it makes sense: fundraising requires thinking outside of the box and constantly coming up with new ways to innovate on what you’ve already been doing. Through coming up with ideas for fundraising for Steep, I came across the idea of consulting, another form of work that I would love to do. My own mentor, Kate, was so receptive to my ideas and valued them which made me feel secure in my abilities to come up with new things and new ways of doing. Having this mentorship was truly transformational.


Working with Steep opened my mind to all of the possibilities for jobs out there, which was transformational. It made me confident in my decision to pursue this path and ignore the naysayers that I encountered every time that I told them my major which was a problem that I had in the past and this experience helped me transform. The arts are something that surround us. Someone has to be working in the arts for that to happen, so why not me? I wish to be a mentor for other students who want to pursue anything arts-related to reinforce that it is very possible to be whatever you want to be. Steep is extremely successful and growing, yet it is small, young, and there are thousands more like it. The opportunity is definitely there and I realize that now with my experiences in with this company. I will remember and reflect on this experience for the rest of my life, looking back on the lessons that I learned and people I met. I feel as though this internship really prepared me for what I want to do and I can’t wait to come back and show that to others who aren’t as confident in their abilities or are puzzled at what they want to do.

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STEP Reflection

For my STEP project I conducted research with Dr. Vadivelu at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. During this time, I worked in a lab focusing on moyamoya disease, a brain vasculature disease that occurs in children at a young age and causes ischemic strokes.

My project and lab experience was transformational. I never really enjoyed research before and I dreaded being in a lab, but working at Children’s changed my outlook on medicine and my future. I knew that I always wanted to be a physician and I did everything I could to get myself on that path. However, it was not until my STEP experience that I understood the importance of research and medicine – the two are so intertwined and crucial to one another that you cannot separate them.

Therefore, I changed my career path. Instead of pursuing just a M.D., I have decided to pursue a M.D. PhD in my future endeavors. I have decided to dedicate half of my future studies to research, more specifically neuroscience research in developing pediatric brains. I want to have a career in which I translate research from my lab to the clinic and vise versa. It is crucial to know both aspects of the story – the molecular and the clinical – and changing my career path is the most successful way I can achieve this dream.

I realized this importance during my first summer at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. With my lab mentor, I learned a variety of different techniques that I had not been exposed to before in my undergraduate experience. More importantly though, I sat in on conferences and meetings interacting other physicians how held labs at Children’s. From them I learned that science without research or research without science was impossible. They spoke to understanding their patients better because of the scientific lens they also had. They taught me that it is crucial to understand and love both to become a great physician.

During my second summer our lab lost 2 of the lab technicians and I was running the lab by myself for a month before the new hirers started working. This was the largest learning curve that I have experienced in my undergraduate learning career. I fell in love with research at this point. I did everything in the lab from staining to managing the mouse room to working on publications. I was a part of every aspect of the cycle, and although the work was sometimes too much to handle, I grew to appreciate the work before me. I loved what I was doing and knew that I wanted this to be a part of my future.

The hard work payed off as I went on to present at various conferences, earning a 2nd and 3rd place prize at two of the conferences – on national and one at at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the University of Cincinnati. The hard work and hours gave way to these amazing opportunities and this recognition. When I tell people about my research, it leaves them intrigued – wanting to know what our results of our next project are. I enjoyed being a source of good news when I tell interested individuals that we may have a new screening method for children other than an MRI. All these experiences have lead me to the decision to incorporate research in my career path.

This change makes me excited about my future. I truly believe that the 2 to 3 extra years of schooling will help me become a better physician, as I grow my knowledge base. The experience only reinforced my love for neuroscience confirming my path of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon. It made me realize that this was the way I can create change in my life, and this is the way I give back to a country and community that gave me a home. I am grateful to STEP and my mentors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for this wonderful and transformational experience.