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Jordon’s Dream of Working in Publishing Gets Boost Through Highly Competitive, Prestigious Internship at Penguin Random House

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 14:55pm | By: David Tisdale

Abigail JordonA distinguished graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) English program is gaining invaluable experience for her chosen career through a highly competitive internship with one of the world’s most famous publishing houses.

Abigail Jordon, who graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English Licensure in spring 2022, was selected for the Sigma Tau Delta-sponsored Penguin Random House (PRH) internship program, which offers candidates the opportunity to work in its Adult & Children’s divisions, attend weekly professional development programming, and learn about the world of publishing. The paid internship is a highly competitive 10-week program at Penguin Random House headquarters in New York City and provides opportunities for racially/ethnically underrepresented groups in the publishing industry. Jordon is Guyanese American and a first-generation U.S. citizen.

At USM, Jordon served as vice-president of its chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society. Last summer, she participated in the Rutgers English Diversity Institute, a program selectively drawing some of the top students from across the nation to participate in a series of lectures, workshops, and cultural activities. After being accepted to several prestigious graduate programs, Jordon has chosen New York University’s Center for Publishing graduate program, where she will enroll in fall 2022 and study media content development, which includes creating and editing engaging, immersive content across multiple media platforms.

“I know if I want to get into publishing, it is all about interning, making connections, and getting your foot in the door,” Jordon said. “Penguin Random House is one of the big five publishing houses in the country, and their internships are highly competitive and selective. I never in a million years thought that I would have the opportunity to work with a publisher of that size right out of college.”

Last summer, Jordon also interned at the University Press of Mississippi, the state's academic publisher, and with Pelican Publishing, an imprint of Arcadia Publishing, that focused primarily on children's books. 

“I have been aware of this internship (Penguin Random House) since my freshman year when [USM English professor] Dr. [Luis] Iglesias, thinking I was older than a freshman, asked me to join Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society,” Jordon said. “Asking what I intended to do with my life, I told him I wanted to get into publishing. He informed me that Sigma Tau Delta sponsored an internship with Penguin Random House, and I decided right then and there I would pursue this opportunity once reaching senior-level status to qualify. It felt full circle to have been selected. I know 19-year-old Abigail would be astounded and freaking out.”

The internship provides opportunities to learn about the world of book publishing, including at PRH’s Adult & Children’s divisions in business areas such as contracts, editorial, finance, graphic design, managing editorial, marketing, online marketing, production, publicity, sales, subsidiary rights, and operations. Interns are also exposed to the publishing process and business through panels, networking events, and employee speaker series. Jordon is working directly with the publicity department of PRH’s Young Readers Division.

“The publicity internship works directly with the publicity professionals to generate exposure and ‘buzz’ for new books,” Jordon said. “Publicity professionals are the biggest advocates of the titles to the media. Publicists pitch newspapers, television, radio stations, websites and bloggers with the hope the press will review our titles and feature stories about forthcoming books and authors. They also help create social media outreach, author tours, author signings, readings, and other events.

“I’ve enjoyed learning the ins and outs and working directly with the publicity manager to help generate buzz and attention for their titles, and diversifying my skill set while absorbing all the wonderful advice and new knowledge.”

At the conclusion of her internship, Jordon is required to submit an article as a member of Sigma Tau Delta for WORDYbyNature, the society’s official blog, in which she will sharing how the internship contributed to her professional growth or field of study; its impact on her career plans; and the importance of the funding to the internship experience.

Abigail is a stellar student who I’ve mentored since she was a freshman,” Dr. Iglesias said. “She is one of the best and brightest students I have had the honor of teaching in my 20 years in higher education. Her commitment to her education, service, and scholarship are impressive and her many accomplishments speak to her high level of performance and dedication. It is no surprise she was accepted to several prestigious graduate programs throughout the country.”

According to Dr. Iglesias, the selection process for the PRH internship Jordon earned moves through several review stages: Sigma Tau Delta members, both domestic and international, submit an extensive application as well as a sponsorship letter from their chapter advisor (at USM, Dr. Iglesias serves in this role), the organization screens and selects only four students out of the hundreds of applications and then those four students are screened and interviewed by Penguin Random House for the final selection.

“This is among the most competitive and selective internship programs sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta,” Dr. Iglesias continued, “and Abigail was the selectee. That’s impressive.”

Jordon’s career goal is to work with children's and young adult titles as an acquisition and content editor. “I want to enter the publishing world, a predominantly white and male industry, as a young woman of color to help advocate for Black and Brown representation and help increase diversity overall,” she said. “I hope to someday work for a publisher whose goal is to amplify Black and Brown voices as representation is critical in children and young adult lives. I want to show that there is room for Black women in this industry and that we deserve visibility.”

Praising USM English faculty for her “phenomenal” undergraduate experience, Jordon said professors like Dr. Iglesias, Dr. Joshua Bernstein, Dr. Olivia Clare, Dr. Jameela Lares, Dr. Sherita Johnson, and Amy Carey, “just to name a few” were instrumental in her development as an academic and professional.

“When I transferred to USM during the spring semester of my freshman year, I was worried, lost, and unsure if I could even handle higher education,” Jordon explained. “I had no idea what my time in USM's English department would do for me and how life-changing the next four years would be. The number of opportunities I have had come from my professors diligently aiding me throughout my undergraduate years and pushing me to become my best.”

The USM English program is housed in the USM College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Humanities. Learn more about the program at https://www.usm.edu/humanities/index.php.