When Victor Diaz started his internship with the Digital Media Engagement (DME) team, he had originally tried applying to become a department head (DH). But after the DH positions filled up, Dominique Ramirez reached out to him with an idea: becoming part of the executive leadership team (ELT) and starting a new department. “As DME ballooned in size and skill, Dom had received more project requests than he could keep up with,” Victor explained. “It was his idea to make this task of communicating and coordinating with outside agencies its own department.” This department eventually took on the name External Affairs (EA).

Eva Rhules was one of the first interns to join the new department after its formation: “I actually had applied for a different VSFS internship that I didn’t get, but a few weeks later I got an email from Victor telling me about the opportunity to join the new EA department. I thought it was a great opportunity to be a part of a developing department and to gain some work experience, so I said yes immediately!”

External Affairs gives interns the opportunity to work on Veteran-related projects with other departments within Veterans Affairs. According to Eva and Victor, sub-offices, such as the Women Veteran Small Business Initiative, the Office of Tribal Governmental Relations, the VA Office of Research and Development and others, have approached EA with projects when the department was created in fall 2020.

The process of an External Affairs project is straightforward. “When a ‘client’ emails us, we usually give them a list of questions to help focus their request. Then, an additional virtual meeting is sometimes scheduled to help further specify the goals of the project,” Victor stated. “This is to make the instructions transmitted to interns as clear and helpful as possible. Next, we scout out the appropriate interns to work on the project and set them up with a Trello card. We try to keep tabs as time passes and ensure that the ‘client’ gets the completed project when it’s all said and done.”

Since the External Affairs department is still new, the types of projects and clients they work with can vary. “I just wrapped up a few projects that I was helping with, but one I had helped with recently was very interesting,” Eva noted. “I was compiling information for small businesses, especially Veteran-owned businesses, about different tax and extra incentives, business awards, and business grants. It was really interesting to see how the different programs varied from state to state.”

Both Eva and Victor encourage potential interns to consider joining the VSFS internship and being part of External Affairs. “EA is a great department to work for and has allowed me to talk to a lot of people across the internship program, which has been really exciting!” Eva remarked.

Writer: Sarah Concepcion

Editors: Julia Pack, Elissa Tatum

Graphic Designer: Katie Rahill