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Elon in NYC: Lynne Bisko lays the groundwork

Students in Elon University's Elon in New York City domestic summer internship program take a four-credit-hour course called "The Streets of New York City" that requires them to study the Big Apple from the ground level so that they may develop a deeper and richer understanding of the city in which they'll live and intern until Aug. 6.

Before landing in New York, the 29 students had to choose a street, neighborhood or region of the city that they would want to examine for the duration of their summers. They’ll research the history of the area, talk to people who live or work there and generally observe the action and surroundings. At the end of the program, they’ll produce an ethnographic study that will detail their specific corner of Manhattan.

Helping them through their projects and providing unique insights about the bustling city are four faculty members, all of whom spend two focused weeks with the students. The story that follows details nonprint librarian Lynne Bisko’s portion of the course.


Lynne Bisko is a nonprint librarian at Elon University, but when she gets to Manhattan to open the Elon in NYC program, she might as well be known as the Great Acclimator.

Lynne Bisko

Unlike thousands of college graduates who descend on the city to begin work following their commencements, the Elon interns don’t have to endure the harsh realities of going toe-to-toe with a notoriously unforgiving city. Instead, Bisko is there to greet them, to familiarize them with the city, to ensure they get settled upon their arrival.

“My piece of the program is to introduce them to the city and to the history of the city,” she said. “That first Sunday they climb on a bus, and we do a six-hour tour that takes us from Central Park to Battery Park so they can see all the different pieces of the city and get a feel for where they are.”

Bisko points students in the direction of landmarks and heavily trafficked attractions, but she also attempts to instill a historical appreciation for the city so that they can begin researching and contemplating their big ethnographic study.

To achieve that end, during her first Monday class she took them to the Tenement Museum, where students learned what it was like to be an immigrant in New York. She led the group to the New York Public Library the next Monday, where they spent time in the local history room and began to research the part of the city they’re studying. And she gave them free time to visit their streets or areas so they could take photographs and begin interviews.

Students in the Elon in NYC program pose for a photo before taking their six-hour bus tour around the city.

“We focus on the history of New York City, overall, and then I help them research their particular part,” said Bisko, who’s worked at Elon for eight years. “The other professors are focusing on specific portions of New York. I have the students look at the city overall and start thinking about their street and neighborhood.”

Additionally, Bisko gives them time simply to be in New York during the first week—to map a path to their internship locations, to buy Metro cards and to visit their streets/areas. Becoming comfortable during the initial two weeks is an integral component of the program.

“It’s been great,” said Bisko of the program to this point. “It’s a great group of students. They’re engaged. They show up on time and early. They seem invested and interested in getting as much as possible out of the summer. They’re really happy to be here.”

Colin Donohue,
6/15/2011 2:50 PM