A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

In training the next generation of scholars and practitioners, START offers its students a chance to publish their work on this blog.

Communicating on START’s communications internship

Communicating on START’s communications internship

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Emily Smith, Communications Intern

Summer 2013

University of Maryland, 2014

My internship experience at START wasn’t exactly what I anticipated. As the sole communications intern, I expected to be somewhat on the fringes, and to write about whatever was assigned to me with minimal involvement in the day-to-day operations of the Consortium. Instead, I was involved in several experiences that gave me insight into START’s mission and its work in terrorism research.  Previously, my only perspective on terrorism came from reading the news and watching “Homeland.” After attending several lectures, research roundtables and career profile sessions, I have learned about terrorism from some leading experts on the subject. The best part is that I was able to write about it all.

One of my major takeaways from this internship is my improved ability to work with others, whether it is students or researchers, to get their stories published. In public relations, you are never working with your own time; it is always that of others. I have learned to use this to my advantage by multi-tasking and working on several stories at once, so that I always have someone to talk to and something to write. 

In addition to interviewing terrorism experts, I have gotten to know several of my intern colleagues by authoring the Intern Spotlight each month. START has a wealth of young talent, all with diverse goals and interests, and it was very intriguing to get to know them and to convey their stories to the START newsletter readers. Everyone has a different story to tell, which made my job fun.

Media monitoring is also an important component of public relations, and I learned how to monitor publications, news and blogs for information about START and document it accordingly. Media monitoring gives the Consortium perspective on its reputation and prominence in the public eye, and we can further leverage this presence through our communications and public relations.

It is crucial to be able to identify the “important parts” of research or someone’s own story and to write your own article with respect to what the audience needs to know. Several of the articles I wrote at START were research highlights, and so I had to read through research (that I often did not completely understand myself), and identify what was important to write about.  My writing for START taught me how to properly prioritize this type of information.

Meeting new, interesting people who are all so knowledgeable in their field was an excellent bonus. This internship allowed me to interact with academics whom I never would have otherwise encountered, and from them I was able to learn even more about the study of terrorism. In turn, they gave me some really great things to write about.

My supervisor, Jessica Rivinius, provided incredibly helpful editing advice and was always willing to work with me to improve my work and learning experience. Jessica is great in that she genuinely wanted this to be a major learning experience, and not just a placeholder on my resume. She helped me show off my strengths in my writing and also identified weaknesses along the way that I strengthened through the work I did.  I’m coming away from this internship with around 10 published articles, plus newfound perspective about public relations and journalism writing and the role it plays in this organization.


In furtherance of its educational and professional development mission, START invites its students to write about their research experiences with the Consortium. 

This blog represents the opinions of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of START or any office or agency of the United States Government.