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Minnesotan travels across the country to delve into risk communication

Minnesotan travels across the country to delve into risk communication

Monday, August 31, 2015

Logen Bartz

In late March 2015, through a combination of sheer luck and frantic Google searching, I stumbled upon the internship program at START. After completing the application and interview process, I was fortunate enough to be selected as a summer intern for the Risk Communication and Resilience Program. This proved to be the first step on a path that would lead me through a summer of brand new experiences and unbelievable learning opportunities.

I am a rising sophomore at Carthage College majoring in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Given my age, I came to my internship with virtually no professional experience. I had also never lived alone beyond a college dorm, and I had never been to Maryland. Faced with this daunting array of new and unfamiliar experiences, I left Minnesota for College Park filled with the strangest combination of overwhelming excitement and mind-numbing terror. I didn’t know it yet, but there was no reason to be anxious—START is easily one of the most welcoming and supportive environments I have ever encountered, and the projects I worked on this summer have proven to be as interesting as they were informative.

The Risk Communication and Resilience program tackles a wide variety of fascinating projects. Before I delve any further into the specific projects I’ve been involved with though, I have a confession to make—until the moment I started my internship, the sum total of my risk communication knowledge consisted of the vague two sentence summary I read while preparing for my interview. Conceptually, I understood that someone, somewhere, had probably studied communication during emergencies, but I certainly didn’t know who these mysterious researchers may be or what they had learned. Over the course of my time at START, I was introduced to an entire field of research I hadn’t known existed and had never thought to explore.

One of the most interesting projects I’ve been involved in centers on the Training in Risk and Crisis Communication (TRACC) course. TRACC is a two-day crash course in risk and crisis communication. The first day is instruction oriented, covering case studies and best practices in the field of risk and crisis communication. The second day applies the knowledge participants learned on the first day through a crisis simulation. Another intern and I were tasked with observing the simulation to see if we could come up with ways to improve the experience. The part of the simulation I found most interesting involved the different perspectives the participants brought with them—most of the attendants in the training I assisted with were graduate students from Australia. The post-simulation discussion included observations on the differences between crisis response and law enforcement in the United States and in Australia, particularly where the rights of the police are concerned. The Australian students provided an intriguing outsiders’ perspective on the U.S. Government and legal system, prompting me to reexamine my own assumptions about what a government’s crisis response should look like.

Working at START has allowed me to develop my research and writing skills while contributing to projects with real-world applications. I’ve learned how to write literature reviews and conduct research using social media—skills that I will use for the rest of my academic career. Interning with the Risk Communication and Resilience program has taught me so much and been an all-around fantastic experience, and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity.