In today’s intern spotlight, we are featuring Elissa Tatum, an intern and department head for the Editing department. Editing interns collaborate with others in the Writing department to review and proofread content for the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs blog. Elissa was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, and currently attends Texas Christian University. In her free time, she loves to read books, listen to music and write.

What department do you work for, and what is your role?

I’m in the Editing department. I started as an editing intern last April, but I started working as one of two Editing department heads in August. My day-to-day responsibilities are now less about editing and more about coordinating the work of a whole team. Using the experience I gained over the summer, I help other interns to improve their editing skills. I also serve as a go-to for questions interns ask, and if I don’t know the answer – which I often don’t – it’s up to me to go find the next person up the ladder who does know the answer.

Why did you decide to apply for this internship?

It was a spur of the moment decision. It was mid-March, and I was kind of struggling at the time because COVID-19 had just shut down what felt like the whole world. I had two jobs I was supposed to be working, one of them being an internship, and all of a sudden, those weren’t happening. I was facing five months of nothing until school started again in August and was desperate for something to do. I saw the application for the Digital Media Engagement internship come through my email and went for it. When I got an acceptance that same weekend, I was relieved. I was just glad to have something to do that wasn’t sitting around my house being sad. It ended up being much more rewarding than that, clearly, since I’m still here eight months later!

What do you study in school, and how has it prepared you for this internship?

I’ve always loved reading, and I’ve always been good at it. That’s how I learned grammar and spelling—I just kind of absorbed it from all the books I read. It ended up giving me an eye for detail, especially when words are involved. When I got to college, it was only natural that I chose to study writing. Plus, I get an inordinate amount of satisfaction out of fixing errors and making things look better, so editing is actually kind of fun for me. This internship, though, took my unofficial background in editing and turned it into practical experience. Suddenly, I was practicing all those skills I’d cultivated here and there, and I was using them frequently. This internship really helped me solidify my knowledge of editing in a practical, journalistic environment.

What is a typical day like, and what projects are you working on?

When I was an editing intern, my responsibilities were primarily in editing drafts of Veteran of the Day (VOD), Special Projects and Vet Resources cards. Every weekday, I spent two hours in front of my computer editing drafts, reading material or researching grammar and style conventions. Now as a department head, I do less of that editing and more overseeing. I make sure interns are doing correctly what I did when I was in their role. I also organize emails and messages for important news that needs to reach them to make sure everything is running smoothly. Collaborating virtually was something that concerned me at first, especially back in the beginning when the world was still getting used to virtual work. But the DME internship was leaps and bounds ahead of the curve, since it was already a virtual workspace, so it made the transition much easier than I was anticipating! Slack and Trello are both great resources for virtual work, too.

Would you like to share any words of advice for prospective interns?

Of all the things I’ve learned in this internship, the one I’d most like to impart is this: there is no shortage of opportunities in this internship. Every week—sometimes every day—I see new projects come through on Slack. I learned early on how to say no, because you simply can’t do everything. The DME internship is so big and has a hand in so many things, there is no way one intern could do everything. But if you have the time and dedication, this internship will certainly be worth your while in so many different ways.

For more information on the application process, please visit: https://www.dmeinterns.org/application-information/

Writers: Elissa Tatum, Thomas Tai
Editors: Christine Myers, Jacob Reis, Brooke Wolfenbarger
Graphic Designer: Grace Yang