In today’s intern spotlight, we are featuring Erin Gallagher, a senior attending Beloit College. She is an intern and division officer in the graphic design department. Erin is interested in learning about law and social work but also loves creating art as a graphic designer. Her notes are always filled with inspiration for new projects. In the future, Erin hopes to obtain a master’s degree in social work and find an opportunity to complete social work practicum to gain more experience.

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

As a graphic design division officer, my role is to oversee other interns and graphic design projects. I give feedback to projects that need changes and remind people to work via communication channels. Besides my leadership responsibilities, I still create graphic designs. Some of the Veterans Affairs projects I worked on are acknowledgment graphics for the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Calendar–which highlights important holidays–and Veteran of the Day (VOD) graphics.

Why did you decide to apply for this internship?

I found this internship through my uncle—it caught my interest since many members of my family are in the Army, and I am interested in helping Veterans. I applied in July and was officially accepted at the end of August. Personally, I was looking to get a foot in the Department of Veterans Affairs and see if it was an organization that I want to work for in the future. In high school, I took a graphic design class which fostered my love for drawing and doodling. Since I had a knack for good design, my teacher wanted me to major in technical design for college. Instead, I went to college for sociology and took a couple of graphic design classes. I found opportunities for my artistic talent. For example, there was a need for a graphic designer at my local library and I took a job with a local designer doing contract work. Due to my interest and past experience in graphic design, I decided to take this internship to gain formal experience.

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

I currently study sociology for my undergraduate degree and will hopefully be moving on to grad school in the future. My studies in school have been very relevant to my internship. Sociology has helped me, since this internship involves interviewing and learning about people. I am currently taking a self-made class with my advisor that is going deeper into the structure of my internship at large. Reading things and taking classes gives you theory, but I am actually seeing structures at work and getting hands-on experience.

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

I primarily use Adobe Illustrator to create vector graphics and edit photos in Photoshop. So far, I have been working on a lot of interviews for VODs, and it is a pleasure to speak to Veterans. Those interviews are pertinent for what I want to do in the future. I have spoken to some Veterans who have been in the military out of high school, some who were drafted for Vietnam and some who did two hours for the GI Bill. My biggest takeaway is how people misunderstand Veterans. The idea that anyone who works for the government is a bad person isn’t something I believe. Some are lonely, which is a very big problem, so talking with them on video calls is lovely for them.

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

I would say just to ask questions and don’t be afraid to reach out to supervisors. By being proactive, I was given the opportunity to be promoted to division officer. Plus, everyone is so nice—you have the chance to make many friends and you get out what you put in for this internship. If you barely do anything, then you won’t get a lot out of it. If you are proactive in your tasks, talk to people on your team and do good work, then you’ll earn the benefits of your hard work. At this internship, I learned a bit more about how intimate government organizations work. Everyone is really kind—no one is strict or overly intolerant to be around.

Writer: Raymond Lin

Editor: Katherine Adams, Julia Pack, Katherine Berman

Graphic Designer: Erin Gallagher