“I belong in this environment”: Dundee internship empowers new generation of creatives
Published on 18 August 2023
An internship at one of Scotland’s most prestigious cultural venues will prove transformative for the careers of a new generation of artists, a University of Dundee student has said.
Nathan McWilliams has just completed a ten-week, fully-funded internship at V&A Dundee as part of his Masters course in Product Design (Also available: Product Design (part time) MSc) at the University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (DJCAD).
Funded by Tim Allan CBE, the design museum’s Chair, Nathan is one of the first cohort of students to gain crucial, real-world experience in the arts and culture sector at the landmark site. In all, the Allan Internships will benefit 21 DJCAD students over the next three years in a move that cements the ties between two of the cities foremost institutions, providing a pipeline from education to industry for some of the country’s top creative talent.
For 24-year-old Nathan, from the Drumchapel area of Glasgow, the experience of working at Scotland’s only design museum has helped him to focus on his future career plans.
“Before starting I was definitely experiencing imposter syndrome, as can happen when you enter a new environment,” he said.
“The first week was something of a whirlwind, but I got to know everybody quickly and was made to feel very welcome. As I continued, my confidence really began to grow. I felt comfortable making suggestions to the team members, and these were being taken onboard and adopted. I wasn’t an outsider – I was fully integrated with the permanent staff and that has reaffirmed to me that I belong in this environment.”
Nathan, 24, grew up in the Drumchapel area of Glasgow with his father and brother, with no family background in the world of the arts. However, keen to encourage his son’s interest in design, Nathan recalls being gifted toys by his father such as play doh to help build his curiosity in design.
Having left school and finishing a year in college, Nathan applied to DJCAD to undertake a BSc in Product Design, where he has stayed to complete his Masters degree. With his sights set firmly on a career in the world of design, a placement at Scotland’s only design museum has been a dream come true for Nathan, developing workshops with the V&A Dundee team and contributing to its exhibitions.
Many internships are unfunded, meaning that students may have to undertake an additional, paid job to support their studies. The Allan internships, however, are fully-funded, with interns receiving the Real Living Wage to support them financially and allowing them to focus fully on maximising the experience of working at one of Scotland’s most significant cultural destinations.
With the internship now completed, Nathan says he is focused more than ever on channelling his talents into encouraging others from similar backgrounds into the design world.
“I simply could not have done this without the generosity of someone like Tim Allan,” he added.
“When I was told I had been successful in getting this internship I knew I needed to give it everything I had, and that is hard to do when you must juggle another job that pays the bills. To be given the financial support throughout my time at V&A Dundee has been incredible – a generous act - and I hope that the quality of my work reflects the effort I have been able to provide as a result of that.
“I remember walking past the window of an office here a while ago, looking in and thinking ‘that could be me one day,’ and now it is. But while the building is remarkable, it is the people that work inside that make it so special.”
Tim Allan said, “I am delighted to be able to support the University of Dundee through a three year commitment to the Allan Internships, offering Masters students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design the opportunity to undertake these placements with the support of a living wage stipend.
“The role that culture plays in the coherence of our society has never been more important and it’s a privilege to be able to support the next generation of creative talent as they explore and refine their practice through practical experience. The future is safe in their hands.
“As Chair of V&A Dundee, our partnership with the University of Dundee is of great significance to me, and the Allan Internships programme is an excellent demonstration of how it continues to flourish.”
Sharifa Hawari-Latter, Head of Design & Making and Communication Design at DJCAD, added, “There is simply no better way for students to apply themselves in a meaningful context and put their newly gained skills to the test than in a professional environment where they can make a real impact for real projects with real stakeholders.
“Having the Allan Internships in support of students is particularly meaningful in the context of Dundee’s status of UNESCO City of Design. It has further enhanced collaborations between leading design institutions in the city and has provided invaluable opportunities for the application and progression of design in new environments.”
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