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.

Same START, New Experience

Same START, New Experience

Monday, August 15, 2016

Justin Mckillop

After spending several semesters at START through the First-Year Innovation and Research (FIRE) program, I finally decided to take the leap this summer and become a START intern for the Risk Communication and Resilience (RCR) team. While FIRE students work with the RCR team, as an intern, I really dove in to the research and finally got to experience the “dreaded beast” that is transcribing interviews. My experience as an intern has been both enlightening and significantly different than my time with the FIRE program. This summer I had the opportunity to take notes and present key takeaways at a Symposium hosted by the TSA and START’s sister Center of Excellence CREATE, participate in the Training in Risk and Crisis Communication (TRACC) simulation, and attend several enrichment events on topics like crafting of emergency messages and using the Global Terrorism Database. Along with these experiences, the interesting projects that I have been able to work on have made the internship extremely worthwhile and served as an incredibly influential experience on my development as a student and aspiring researcher.

It only took a short time at the internship, for me to realize that my experience this summer would be like nothing that I had experienced previously. On only my second week, another intern and I were given the extraordinary opportunity to attend, take notes, and give a short overview of key findings at the 2016 CREATE-TSA Symposium. Created with the objective of fostering working relationships between government agencies, academics, and industry members, the CREATE-TSA Symposium allowed all three spheres to come together in an effort to share ideas on the risks that currently threaten our transportation security. The symposium was an incredible event, unlike anything I have ever experienced, and featured talks about the threat of insiders to the aviation industry, the threat of homegrown extremism, and threats to our transportation system through cyberspace. While the symposium itself was enough to make the entire internship worthwhile, that same week I also attended and participated in the TRACC simulation that is run by the amazing RCR team at START. Run by my awesome supervisor, Holly Roberts, the TRACC simulation posed a fictional crisis to a group of students from Macquarie University, who then had to react, make decisions, and communicate about those decisions internally and with the general public. The simulation was an incredible experience that allowed me to better understand the direct impact of an effective risk communication strategy.

Along with those experiences, this summer I have also been able to work on several fascinating projects ranging from looking at the effect of emotions on the general public during crises, to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funded project on tornadoes and their effect on mobile home owners. Furthermore, I spent a majority of my time this summer transcribing interviews with hospital personnel for our project working to create a completely resilient hospital and interviews with school system personnel for our project on school disaster communication plans. While this was my first experience transcribing interviews, and I had heard a lot of horror stories about the process prior to my internship, I thoroughly enjoyed the task as it allowed me to do important work while simultaneously learning from experts in the field about how certain hospitals or schools are prepared to deal with crises.

While my time as a START intern with the RCR team is winding down as the summer draws to a close, I know the experiences and the skills that I have gained through my work here will stay with me for the rest of my academic career. My internship with START has allowed me to further develop my research skills, while also providing me with extremely enlightening and interesting experiences along the way. I am extremely grateful that I was able to have this opportunity and I know it will it be incredibly influential for the rest of my career.