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.

Risk Communication Intern Hones Research, Design Skills

Risk Communication Intern Hones Research, Design Skills

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Josh Nesselrodt, Fall 2014 Risk Communication Intern

As the 2014 spring semester wound down, I found myself considering where I would intern in the fall. Luckily, I was taking Complex Organizational Communication, a course at the University of Maryland with Dr. Elizabeth Petrun. In addition to Dr. Petrun being a professor at the University of Maryland, she is also the associate director of the Risk Communication and Resilience program at START. At her urging I decided to apply for a risk communication internship and now, here I am!

As a junior public relations student, I am only beginning to build a foundation of experience for my future career. Prior to this, I had interned at a local newspaper, but my risk communication internship was my first experience in a professional, research-focused institution.

When I first started, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was daunting to know that the work done here is for funders who are typically government entities. However, the overall culture at START helped to alleviate some of those concerns. Despite the serious nature of the projects here, the staff was welcoming and inviting. I instantly felt at home - a part of the team.

The internship exposed me to a plethora of tasks, from transcribing and proposal writing to training preparation and graphic design. While there were certainly frustrating times - if you’ve transcribed you’ll understand - I honestly enjoyed all of the work I’ve been a part of during my time here.

I especially enjoyed working with InDesign. I had some previous experience with the program but it was great to have the opportunity to fine-tune my skills and become very familiar with the software. Over the course of the semester I worked on several projects, including a Training in Risk and Crisis Communication (TRACC) flyer for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and a poster for the Risk Communication program.

An unexpected bonus of this internship are the connections and mentors I have made. All of my supervisors have been incredibly helpful, offering advice and always taking the time to meet if asked. They have also discussed future internship opportunities and other institutions that would be a good fit for me. Because our team is small, it makes it feel that much more like a family.

Due to those familial ties, I was eager to continue collaborating with START. The risk communication and resilience program will be working with the First-Year Initiative and Research Experience (FIRE), a new program at the University of Maryland.

As one of several FIRE “streams” participating, the risk communication team at START will take on approximately 40 freshmen interns. To meet the demand for this influx of students, peer mentors are needed. When my supervisor, Holly Roberts, brought this up, I immediately wanted to be involved.

I’m so grateful for this opportunity and it really has been an insightful experience. This semester has been great, largely thanks to START, and knowing I will be coming back in two months definitely tempers the bittersweet feeling of leaving my post as a START intern.


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.