Meet the Team: Tess Britton

Our vision for Sivana is always evolving but one aspect that has stayed consistent is our insistence on building and fostering a warm and safe community of learners. In this spirit, we have been spotlighting our team of interns and their work on improvements to our blog, website, and social media through our Sivana Savant series. We look forward to all of you meeting the individuals building our learning community — join us at www.sivana.live

Today we will focus on Tess:

(Three random facts: Tess’s favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor is Frita Batidos (“it’s the best restaurant in the world”); From 3rd grade – 8th grade Tess participated in an annual play called Scamper–the show involves singing and dancing about Kenilworth, her former middle school–(“mentioning it brings back bad memories”); Tess entertains the possibility that Jeff Bezos will become a dictator in 10 years but doesn’t think we’ll figure out he is one for 30 years.)

Bryant:

Hi, my name is Bryant and today I’m joined by co-worker Tess Britton. May you please introduce yourself?

Tess:

Sure! My name is Tess Britton. I’m also an intern at Sivana and I’m currently a junior at the University of Michigan studying English and Economics. And there’s not much else (laughs).

Bryant:

What was it like growing up in Kenilworth, Illinois, a town that some sources have referred to as a village, just north of Chicago?

Tess:

I don’t think I would call it a village. Kenilworth is right by Northwestern and Evanston is the next town over which is nice. My high school kind of has a bad rap of everyone being white and… you know how the suburbs are. It was interesting growing up in that bubble. I remember I first got out when I went to a camp called Camp Echo. It was a lot of inner-city kids and my first introduction to a more diverse environment. I think it was really good for me to have that. It made me want to go to the University of Michigan because I want diversity, to learn from different people, and to not live in Kenilworth forever.

Bryant:

Do you have a favorite part of Kenilworth, like a restaurant or place?

Tess:

So, Kenilworth is so small it doesn’t have any restaurants; Downtown Kenilworth is the post office. I think my favorite spot is this little water tower park, I live across the street from. The water tower doesn’t even supply water anymore, it’s just a big structure. My brother and I would play by the creek there and try to dam it.

Bryant:

Where you guys ever successful?

Tess:

We pretended to be. We thought we caused some damage, but I don’t think we did much.

Bryant:

So, you leave Kenilworth for Michigan and you touched on this early, but can you discuss how Michigan won the Tess sweepstakes?

Tess:

I knew I wanted to go to a big state school… For a month I thought I wanted to go to a small liberal arts school but then I realized it was not for me after I visited Connecticut College and there were camels everywhere—it was weird (laughs). I liked that Michigan was close to home and that it had a lot of opportunities. I didn’t know what I wanted to do going into college, so I just wanted a good program. The Literature, Science, and Arts at Michigan was great because it allowed me to explore a lot of different areas. Ultimately, I ended up picking economics because I really liked math and being able to apply it to real world issues… I don’t know if this was a good answer, I sort of just picked it (laughs).

Bryant:

Your majors are Economics and English and those topics don’t share much in common other than their first letter. How did you end up with those focuses?

Tess:

This is true. English kind of just happened. I don’t have a great answer. I think now, I’m realizing that was a good decision. I initially wanted to transfer into the business school but I didn’t get in, and it ended up being good. I’m glad that I didn’t get in because I like balancing these two things I really love. Also, the way they combine is really good for marketing, since I’m able to understand data analysis and tell a story with that data.

Bryant:

It’s certainly helped us at Sivana, your ability to think in two different worlds at once. Another place where I saw the two worlds, English and Economics, collide was with your work as a journalist. You’ve written several very cool pieces, such as one about how dollar-stores could be hurting small businesses. How has working as a journalist been?

Tess:

The Michigan Journal of Economics started this summer and when I saw it, I thought it would be perfect for me. I had no prior experience with journalism, but I just went into it and really loved it. I was able to be a part of the editing team, and there aren’t a lot of people that do editing and writing, so I think being an English major in a sea of Business and Economics majors has been helpful there. I have a new article out now about gig economy work and California’s new laws surrounding ridesharing. I think working as a journalist with the Michigan Journal of Economics has helped me to write good content for Sivana though.

Bryant:

You mentioned how traveling to camp was a big moment for you growing up, but you had another traveling experience in college when you went to Costa Rica to work. What was that like?

Tess:

Sometimes I forget that I did that, because it feels like a different world, but it was the coolest four months of my life. It was scary because I went there without knowing anybody and I was pretty good at Spanish but not fluent by any means. I had to just navigate my way for four months without much preparation. It taught me a lot. I remember the first moment, while I was waiting in line at the airport, looking back at my mom, wondering if I should just not go at all (laughs). Then when I got through security realizing I can’t go back and committing. Those four months were a roller-coaster. My job was to supervise high-school-aged volunteers from all over the world. I was supposed to go to different communities and with my broken Spanish, tell the community members about the program and ask how we could help their community. There are other volunteer organizations that show up and decide to build a house, but the idea behind Amigos de las Americas is creating projects that communities want. Some of the things we did was build a ramp in front of an elder’s home, stairs in front of a church, and repaint a community center. My job was figuring out how to make each project happen, so it was hard work, but I was able to meet some very interesting people.

Bryant:

Do you have any favorite memories?

Tess:

I have a million. One moment I always tell people about was a morning in the community before the volunteers arrived. People in this community would wake up at 4 am and I never did except for this one day. I woke up, it was pitch black outside, but I went out and got to watch the sun rise. I was super high up in the mountains and… it was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my entire life. The clouds were over the valley, the sun was coming up, and everything was colorful, I just felt so at peace. I guess I just saw a sunrise and it changed my life (laughs).

Bryant:

That sounds like such a beautiful moment.

Tess:

It’s such a beautiful country. So small, but I couldn’t get close to exploring all of it in four months.

Bryant:

Going back to University of Michigan and thinking about your extra curriculars. You work in gender violence prevention and suicide prevention, two issues that can’t be talked about enough. What made you decide to take on those very difficult roles?

Tess:

For suicide prevention, it’s very personal to me. Whenever something happens to someone I care about, I want to do whatever I possibly can to help. With suicide prevention, the only way I can think to make myself feel better about a loss… I felt if I could stop one person from making that decision it would be worth it. So, I started getting involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at U of M. I got started my freshman year and I’ve been involved since then. It’s very important to me and makes me feel better in the most selfish way. The same thing is true with SAPAC. I think it’s important to spread the message, since more people getting involved means more people getting help. Spreading awareness is so important for every issue because it’s a starting point.

Bryant:

That’s so true. Changing gears to your work with Sivana, what led you to start working in Marketing?

Tess:

My dad does graphic design, so he works a lot with advertising and marketing and I’ve always thought his work is cool. I guess, I feel like I need to try everything to figure out what I really love. I took a class in marketing my sophomore year that I liked, so I was looking to see what I could get involved in from a start-up perspective because I thought it’d be a great way to really see how businesses get started. Especially with our re-branding efforts. This job has been everything I was hoping for. I’ve found that at internships with big companies you work on small stuff, so I’ve appreciated being at a small company where I have a voice in even the big things going on. Hopefully, when we’re looking back on it (cause we won’t be marketing interns forever) it’ll be cool to see our impact.

Bryant:

Companies get started every day and any of them would want you to work there, why did you choose Sivana?

Tess:

I found it on Handshake, and I thought it would be interesting (laughs). But after interviewing and learning more about it, I realized this is a cool company to be a part of. The idea of working to spread knowledge is something I can get behind and believe in. It’s not just selling a product. We’re trying to make a difference and that’s more fulfilling than working for a company that sells popsicle sticks or something (laughs).

Bryant:

What do you have coming up for you in the near future and the distant future and where would you wish to be?

Tess:

I don’t have a very specific answer. I would like to have a job that’s fulfilling and comfortable financially. Hopefully I’ll be happy. Right now, I feel like I’m learning this small business experience, but I’d like to see what the opposite, working for a big company is like. So, I’ve started that difficult recruiting process, so I can have something lined up next summer. I’m hoping to continue with Sivana through this semester though. In the distant future I really have no idea!

Bryant:

Thank you so much for doing this interview and good luck moving forward!

Tess:

Thank you!  

Post interview:

Bryant:

This went really well! I think there were a lot of good moments.

Tess:

I hope so. I’m like everyone I don’t know what’s going on (laughs).

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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