DME Interns Podcast Team

DME Podcast

by DME Interns

The new intern interview podcast focuses on interviewing the interns of the VSFS Virtual Internship Program at the VA. Interviewing interns will broaden the connections between other interns and help make friendships and foster teamwork within different departments. Each intern shares their experiences with college, their interests in veterans, and how they came to hear about and join the internship with VA.

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Listen to the DME Interns Podcast right here!

Tips for DHs In Any Department

Are you interested in becoming a department head for the Digital Media Engagement team? Here is some advice on getting started!

One of the nice things in the Digital Media Engagement (DME) internship is that there are many chances to take on leadership roles as an intern. However, it can be initially confusing about what you’re supposed to do when you become a department head (DH) and it is your first time in such a role. So, if you’re a new DH or are interested in becoming one, here are my tips on what a DH in any department can do to make their department great.

  1. Stay in Close Contact with Your co-DH and any

Your co-DH should be on the same page as you at all times, so make sure you are messaging them first when important matters come up. If they’ve been a DH for a while, they might also have tips on what to expect in the department. It should be the same with your Division Officers (DOs). They want to help you manage things and get work done!

2. Think from the Intern’s Perspective

This is an important tactic whether you are creating new projects or even reworking boot camps come application season. What will your interns need to do the project successfully? What common issues keep popping up and how can they be fixed? What did you wish you knew about the department when you started as an intern? By thinking from the intern’s perspective, you may be answering questions they haven’t posed yet and making it a more enjoyable experience for all.

3. Ask your ELTs for Help

Getting settled in as a DH can be overwhelming at first. You suddenly have to track metrics of many interns, answer questions you might not know the answers to and handle projects like web work or social media, which require constant attention. If you don’t know the answer to an intern question or project requirement, definitely ask your executive leadership team (ELT). If they can’t answer it, they can find someone who can or point you in the right direction.

4. Get to Know Other DHs

As a writing DH, I have become familiar with the DHs and leadership in Editing, Research, Graphic Design and Special Projects. We all rely on each other for help with projects, answering questions, updates on interdepartmental matters, etc. Therefore, if you’re a DH, you should definitely be in contact with other department heads who might be working with you. Make sure they know about the happenings in your department and definitely ask about theirs. What you’re planning in your department may affect theirs!

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things

In the summer of 2020, one of our ELTs (then my co-DH) and I decided to try holding office hours for our interns. It was a place to ask us questions, get to know each other and “meet” virtually. Our DOs have also started several new practices, from compiling a research source list to creating feedback response sheets for things like mock training. If you get an idea that might help make your team better, definitely propose it to your team!

6. Make Your Mark

Several times during this internship, I’ve been asked to build and manage a new project like the DME blog. This August, we learned about the America250 project, which will run for the next six years. We had to figure out write-up requirements, what the Trello board would look like, scheduling using a non-Google calendar, etc. Helping set up projects like this will be long-lasting and something you can highlight in your career work.

As DHs, it’s our job to run the department and make sure projects are going smoothly. Hopefully these tips will help with that. Good luck!

Writer: Sarah Concepcion

Editors: Annabelle Colton, Brooke Wolfenbarger

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

Why Should I Do an Internship?

At some point in their college career, most students consider taking up an internship alongside their schoolwork. It can be stressful to find one, though, and often there is confusion about what you should look for. Here are some ideas about what skills and experiences you could look out for, specifically with the VA’s Digital Media Engagement (DME) team.

One of the biggest benefits of an internship with the DME team is the experience. Interns gain experience in a professional, virtual work environment for the federal government. For those interested in a future career with the government, or any organization, having experience working for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs is a great addition to your resume. Interning with the DME also allows you to network with other interns and VA employees from all sorts of backgrounds, which can help with future work opportunities.

Along with being a great resume builder, a DME internship also provides new hard skills and practice, no matter what your interest is. Writers gain experience in research and writing, editors gain experience in editing and AP style, graphic designers gain experience in PhotoShop and design and our web and social media teams get hands-on experience with online platforms like WordPress, Instagram and YouTube. No matter what path you take in an internship, though, you also get to develop those elusive “soft skills.” Communication is key in any position, and even more so in a virtual internship with people working on many different schedules and in many time zones. Time management is another useful skill to be gained. While students have plenty of experience handling deadlines, school tends to be much more structured than professional work environments, where interns must work efficiently and fulfill all their hours each week.

Finally, working with the DME provides a unique experience. It allows interns to honor the Veterans that have served our country by spreading their stories to a wider audience, all while working with a great team along the way. DME works to put out all sorts of content to raise awareness about Veterans’ stories, like through our #VeteranOfTheDay posts, and various resources that Veterans can access. There’s something for everyone at DME, and if you’re in the market for an internship, it is a great choice for gaining experience, building up skills and making connections all within 10 hours per week.

Writer: Nolan Lounsbery

Editors: Alexander Reza, Merrit Pope

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

Intern Podcast Episode: Paulina Riffey

Paulina works as a podcast show transcription intern for the Digital Media Engagement team podcast, Borne the Battle. This week, she talks about her main responsibilities, her process for transcribing each podcast episode, and the human touch involved in transcription. More specifically, she tells listeners about some of her favorite current projects, which include the Antarctic Sun Podcast because she finds the story and content itself so fascinating. She also speaks to her own personal love of podcasts, especially true crime and comedy. Next, Paulina elaborates on the skills she has cultivated from the DME internship, including time management, personal motivation and the creation of schedules and structure.

Lastly, Paulina speaks about her plans and hopes for the future. In the short term, she hopes to graduate with her bachelor’s in psychology and criminal justice. In the longer term, Paulina has goals to get a master’s in mental health counseling, as her dream career is to provide mental health services for active-duty soldiers, veterans and their families. To close, she explains how her own experiences with loved ones serving in the military, combined with the first-hand stories she has heard throughout this internship, have fortified her long-term career goals and desire to provide support for soldiers and their families

Use the audio player to listen to Paulina’s full interview, or read the transcript below: 

(Serena Aguilar): Hello and welcome to DME Interns Podcast. I’m your host, Serena Aguilar, and I hope you’ll join me in learning about DME interns, what they do and what they hope to do in the future.


(Serena Aguilar): Hello, everyone. And welcome back to another interview. Today, we have Paulina Riffey from podcast transcription. Paulina Riffey works as a podcast show transcription intern for the Digital Media Engagement team podcast, Borne the Battle. So, can you tell me a little bit about what you do on the team? Kind of what goes into being a podcast transcription intern.

(Paulina Riffey): So, yeah, my main role is to transcribe episodes for the Borne the Battle podcast. Sometimes we get different random projects too. Like for example, right now I’m also working on episodes for the Antarctic Sun Podcast, about, like, life in Antarctica. It’s, it’s pretty fun, but, yeah, Borne the Battle is my main focus right now. So, for the Borne the Battle when we do the transcriptions, we usually get, receive like a rough draft, kind of like, made through one on the transcribing software and we just go through it, make all the corrections, make sure it’s accurate. It’s kind of like a Google translate. It’s not exactly perfect. It’s far from perfect. So, our main job is to just make sure the capitalizations are right, everything’s just, punctuation’s right. If we don’t get these rough drafts, we just do anything manually. For example, for the Antarctic Sun Podcast, I do everything manually, but episodes are pretty short, 14 – 15 minutes. It takes about two, three hours, to transcript all that.

(Serena Aguilar): That sounds like a lot.

(Paulina Riffey) It’s not… ah, yeah. It’s not that much technology going into it to just listen to the audio and just typing.

(Serena Aguilar): Hmm. Okay. But that’s nice, like a little bit of a human touch into creating that transcript.

(Paulina Riffey): Oh yes. The transcription software are like I said, they’re not perfect. They don’t pick up some sounds. All it takes for a person in the podcast to speak a little faster or have an accent and the software just doesn’t, doesn’t really pick that up.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah. I’ve noticed that with kind of just watching transcriptions, like on TV then they’re never great.

(Paulina Riffey): Yeah. So it’s like, there’s a little like proofreading.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah. So what’s been like a favorite project of yours that you’ve been working on during the course of this internship?

(Paulina Riffey): Right now, I would say I enjoy the Antarctic Sun Podcast, just because it is, it talks about all the effort it takes into maintaining research stations in Antarctica. And I just didn’t realize just how much goes into it, how much logistics and technology and time. So it’s pretty fascinating. But I do enjoy working on Borne the Battle a lot too, because it’s interesting to listen to different Veteran stories. Each Veteran comes in with completely different story from when they were in the military and what they started doing after the military. You have Veterans who after service went to become the wrestling stars or Veterans who just opened non-profits. It’s just, it’s always something new.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah, that does sound really interesting. So, so it’s almost like while you’re still working on this project, you’re still like enjoying the stories and what you’re learning. Would you consider yourself like normally a pretty big podcast listener or is this kind of something that once you started having this work, you got more into?

(Paulina Riffey): No, I listen to a lot of podcasts, mostly true crime, true crime comedy podcasts, some kind of psychology true crime podcasts. I’ve been a fan, I’ve been listening to podcasts for a few years now.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah, that makes sense. So it’s kind of, it’s fun, but it’s still work.

(Paulina Riffey): Yes.

(Serena Aguilar): That’s an awesome balance. What sort of skills do you think you may have gotten over the course of this internship? Or maybe something that sharpened over the course of this internship?

(Paulina Riffey): It’s my first virtual internship or virtual work in general. So I have learned a lot of new skills in regard to virtual workplace. I’ve never used Trello or Slack before. And so I believe there’s been a learning process that, for that too. And just kind of, I think this internship helped me improve my communications skills, teamwork. I constantly talk with other people just kind of, when we work on the same project. Just go back and forth. So I think that that was a very helpful, especially in the times where most, more and more jobs goes virtual. So is this something that’s definitely going to be useful in future.

(Serena Aguilar): Oh, absolutely. I, the only internships that I’ve done have been virtual, so I have no idea of what an in-person one feels like. What do you think is one of the big differences between like virtual work and in-person?

(Paulina Riffey): I think for the virtual work, you really have to be organized and you really have to have strong time management skills, because when you work from home, there’s just so many distractions. You have your TV, you have your chores, you have your phone, you have your cats, and it’s just, it’s easy to get distracted. So you gotta make sure, the way I do it for each day, I just establish each goal for a day. Let’s say on Monday, I’ll do an episode of Borne the Battle. Tuesday I’ll do an episode of this, and just kind of make sure I reach my goal every day, because when you just go to like a traditional work, you know, you don’t have to worry about schedule, time management, because you’re already, already at that place. It’s more structured. And for the virtual work, you have to create that structure yourself, pretty much.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah. Yeah. Creating a structure for myself has definitely been difficult. Do you have, kind of in creating a structure for yourself? Do you have any advice to people who might be struggling for this and maybe me as well? Cause I struggle with it just a bit.

(Paulina Riffey): I think, just start simple. Just write down what do you need to do for, for the next day, for the next week. I’m sure there are apps you can use for scheduling calendars. Or just writing on a piece of paper and just work on sticking to it. I know it’s sometimes it’s hard. You want maybe, put that work for another day, but you keep putting the work for another day, then you’re going to end up working with 10 different projects because you were kind of slacking during the week. So, I think it’s just, writing down for myself just helped a lot.

(Serena Aguilar): Keeping like a to do list.

(Paulina Riffey): Yeah, it sounds so simple, but I think it works.

(Serena Aguilar): Sometimes the simple stuff works the best. Thank you for that. So not to put you in any sort of panic. But do you have any like future career goals of yours? Whether that’s like a very specific, I know exactly what I want to do for my career, or maybe something more general.

(Paulina Riffey): Still on the line, but this summer, if everything goes well, I’m gonna graduate with my bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminal justice.

(Serena Aguilar): Congratulations.

(Paulina Riffey): Thank you. Not yet. It’s early, anything can happen. And I hope to do my masters in mental health counseling and like a dream career would be to provide mental health services for the military, for soldiers, Veterans, and families. My husband is active duty. And kind of been part of this lifestyle, this community for almost eight years now. And there are some unique mental health challenges in this specific community. And I’d kind of be, I kind of want to work with that. I hope.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah, that is amazing. Both of my parents served in the Navy actually. Yeah. And I remember like in elementary school, cause they had an elementary school on the base that we grew up on. They would have these like puppet shows about how to deal with your parent deploying. I just remember it being so strange like this, this is the help we get. This is… Okay then. I guess.

(Paulina Riffey): I can, I can imagine it’s, it’s kind of challenging to talk to children about it since even adults struggle with the whole deployment thing, post deployment, during deployment, it can be hard it’s for family.

(Serena Aguilar): Oh, yeah. Especially for kids being like, well, why can’t we know when they’re coming home. That was a big thing for my family. So how would you say that this internship is helping your future career goals? Whether that’s like technical skills with improving your writing abilities or more soft skills with like improving confidence, industry know-how, that sort of thing.

(Paulina Riffey): Confidence. Definitely. I’m usually pretty shy and socially awkward person. So just kind of being able to communicate in for Slack or sometimes video calls with other interns, does help. Work on, not just confidence, but also just communicating. Like these day and age, a lot of mental health counseling goes through zoom or just virtual. So maybe using that way to communicate with patients in the future. And then Borne the Battle, and the internship is, it’s founded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and one of my goals is to work with the VA, as their counselor. So it connects a little bit, but I think I mostly decided to, go for transcription because of my love for podcasts.

(Serena Aguilar): That is so understandable. I mean like I’m my future career goal is foreign service. So like for me, thank you, for me the podcast hosts for me is about getting used to hearing people’s stories, understand that there’s people behind every single story and every single action. That there’s like reasons behind of it.

So there’s so many, like, it’s amazing to me hearing how people are like, well, I want to do this, which doesn’t sound like my career, like what I’m doing now in the internship. But if you look deeper, there is so much connection. And like for you having that experience, working with the VA, I mean, you’re hearing all of these Veterans stories, so you’re hearing how things directly impacted them.

(Paulina Riffey): Exactly. And if I’m ever lucky to work with Veterans, a lot of Borne the Battle episodes, talk about the VA benefits, mental health, mental health apps. They, the host asks Veteran as they talk about their mental struggles challenges a lot too. So it is also something, might be useful for me when I will be working with Veterans in the future.

(Serena Aguilar): You already have, you’ve got some, well, even in your personal life, you have a lot of different experience of hearing the struggles related to mental health and you knowing the people behind the policies and how it’s going to affect people is definitely going to be helpful.

(Paulina Riffey): Exactly.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah, that’s very respectful, respectful. So, just to kind of wrap everything up, coming to it in like a closing statement, what would you say is a big piece of advice that you would give to anybody who’s trying to apply for internships or trying to figure out like what internship to apply for.

(Paulina Riffey): I think it’s important to assess your own skills. Know that you’re not only good at right now, but skills you want to work at and find internships that can fit your skills. Will also teach you new things and… There are so many virtual internships available right now. I remember when I learned about this internship, it was through my college and they basically send us this very, very long different lists of available internship positions, there was hundreds, hundreds, hundreds of them. So just, I think it’s possible for everyone to find something for themselves. There’s truly such a variety of different kinds of internships, writing, transcribing, podcasting, data entry, IT… It is just, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

(Serena Aguilar): Absolutely. And also, just being like, you don’t have to do something that’s directly related to your major.

(Paulina Riffey): Oh yeah, just something you were interested. So just a hobby. (Serena Aguilar): Exactly. I mean, that’s what we were just talking about. This kind of us being like, it’s fun, but it builds skills.

(Paulina Riffey): Exactly. There’s no more, fun way to just to learn new things through just having fun.

(Serena Aguilar): It’s amazing. Thank you so much for talking with me. It’s been great having you on here today.

(Paulina Riffey): Thank you. It was really interesting experience.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah, of course. It’s also really nice to like talk to somebody who is family to somebody in the service. Like that’s kind of, it’s an interesting sense of comradery.

(Paulina Riffey): Yeah, it is truly one big community.

(Serena Aguilar): Oh yeah. There’s always somebody who’s there to be like, Hey, I went through the exact same thing. We can sit down, we can talk about it.

(Paulina Riffey): Exactly. It’s a good thing to think about it.

(Serena Aguilar): Okay. Thank you so much for coming on here today. I’m really glad that I got a chance to talk to you.

(Paulina Riffey): Thank you for having me.

(Serena Aguilar): And thank you to everybody who listened in today and I hope to see you next time. Bye.


(Serena Aguilar): Thank you so much for listening, please don’t forget to subscribe. And if you could give us a five-star rating, we’d really appreciate it. For more information about joining the DME interns’ team, please visit You can also follow us on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Once again, my name is Serena and I hope to see you all next time. Bye.


What is a VOD?

Veterans can be defined as individuals who have had experience serving in the military. There is no age limit, service time or other requirements necessary for a Veteran to be published with their own Veteran of the Day post (VOD) on the VA site. The purpose of a VOD is not just to write about Veterans but to also to recognize their service and highlight each and every unique story they carry with them.

On the Department of Veterans Affairs website, the VA began to publish VODs daily starting from Dec. 31, 2015. These write-ups do not simply highlight a Veteran’s service, but also offer further insight into who they are as a person, their family life, their education and career background, medals received and more to provide a complete picture of the Veteran. For example, a VOD begins by telling the reader about the Veteran’s early life, family and maybe education. It then goes into how the Veteran joined the services and what led them to serve. Facts about their specific rank and role are included. Where the Veteran served is provided to offer a complete picture of the Veteran’s time in the service. Any medals received by the Veteran in or after their service are also highlighted. The VOD concludes with what the Veteran has continued to do after their service (such as with a career, job, volunteer work, etc.) or provides information on the Veteran’s passing.

VODs can be nominated by the public, created from the Veterans History Project or written specifically from intern interviews. Currently, there have been over 2,030 VODs published to bring light to Veterans’ experiences and time in their service. Every day, a Veteran’s story is brought to life by VODs. If you know someone who deserves a post, reach out to the VA blog here!

Writer: Madison Eberhardt

Editors: Nolan Lounsbery, Annabelle Colton

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

Intern Podcast Episode: Rajiv Thummala

Rajiv is a current junior, attending Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University, majoring in Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations. During his internship, he is the Department Head of Web Development, managing the full web ecosystem of the DME Interns.

Rajiv talks a bit about how he transitioned from the web security team to the position of department head, and gained more responsibilities. His favorite project so far has been the America250 project because he enjoys problem-solving and tackling the challenges that come with those tasks. Rajiv elaborates on the ways he has worked through these challenges, and the skills he gained from the process. He also offers advice to others in similar leadership positions.

Speaking about the leadership skills that have been most transformative in this role, Rajiv talks about how managing a large group of interns boosted his confidence, interpersonal skills and character. He also explains how he discovered this internship, as well as the process of constantly completing applications as a college student. He gives advice to his fellow students, especially those seeking technical roles, suggesting they boost their resume and add hands-on experience. He closes by recommending everyone to follow their dreams and to apply to the VA if they ever choose to enroll in the VSFS.

Use the audio player to listen to Rajiv’s full interview, or read the transcript below:



Serena Aguilar:      Hello and welcome to the DME Interns podcast. I’m your host, Serena Aguilar, and I hope you will join me in learning about the DME Interns, what they do, and what they hope to do in the future. 


Serena Aguilar (SA): Hello everyone, today we have Rajiv from Web Development with us. Rajiv is a current junior at Schreyer’s Honors College at Penn State, majoring in Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations. Rajiv, how you doing today?

Rajiv Thummala (RT): I’m good, how are you?

(SA):                          I’m doing alright. So, tell me a little bit about what you do in the DME interns group.

(RT):                           Yeah, so I’m the Department Head of Web Development. My main role is to pretty much manage the full web ecosystem of the DME interns. So I work on my own technical projects related to web development, that includes patching things, working on wire frames, and other projects as well. I also spend a lot of time as the DH managing and helping other individuals in the Web Dev team with their own tasks. You know, that’s assigning tasks to Trello and other things as well.

 (SA):                          Okay, nice. So, you said web ecosystem. I’m not too familiar with a lot of web development terms, could you explain that a little bit more?

(RT):                           It’s pretty much all the – all the stacks related to web development, again that’s another technical term but it’s all the technologies related to the website, pretty much. Cause our whole DME interns uses WordPress, and there’s a bunch of different technologies within WordPress that is used and I pretty much help manage that.

(SA):                           Nice. Okay, so, you’re not only an intern but you’re also a Department Head with us-

(RT):                           Yeah.

(SA):                           So were you brought on, like, into that leadership position or were you a previous intern that got promoted?

(RT):                           So I actually came in through the Web Security team because that was my major and that’s what I wanted to do. And then, the previous Web DH had left, had resigned, and they had like a gap and a lot of stuff that needed to be done. So they kinda posted a message in the Web Security team cause a lot of us have experience with Web Dev cause it’s kinda in the same alley. And then I decided to step us because I had some experience working on other government Web Development projects and I told Dom about my experience and he said I would be a pretty good fit. He asked about what I’ve done and yeah, he said it would be – he kind of detailed like the guidelines of what I would have to do. And I just stepped up and decided I want to do it.

(SA):                           Yeah, that’s pretty good kind of gumption for ya.

(RT):                           Yeah.

(SA):                           So, what has been kind of a favorite – you said that you do of like almost independent work – what’s been a favorite project of yours or like maybe multiple projects that you’ve really enjoyed?

(RT):                           So my favorite right now is pretty much the America250 project because that’s what we’ve been working on for a really long time. I think just – I encountered a lot of like challenges with that in the beginning and overcoming those has been kind of fun, cause I kinda like the challenges that I’ve gotten with that. Yeah, pretty much like all the tasks related to A250 has pretty much been my favorite. I also liked making the guideline documents, cause throughout my time as DH I’ve had to make detailed and make a couple of important documents that needed to be used across other departments. So, includes like a bootcamp guideline document, that includes onboarding and offboarding procedures for interns coming in and off, and exiting the DME interns, so that has been quite fun for me as well.

(SA):                           Mhm. That’s pretty cool to hear about, I think I was chatting with somebody else about the America250 project and it seems amazing.

(RT):                           Mhm, yeah. Yeah I mean-

(SA):                           Yeah, talking about – no, go ahead.

(RT):                           Yeah, no, I just can’t wait till that’s like – it’s fully done. I mean obviously, it’s a long time until then but I can’t wait to see the progress for that.

(SA):                           Mhm. You say that there were like a few challenges that you had to work through, can you speak a little bit to those challenges, kind of like how you worked through them, maybe some skills that you got at the end of it?

(RT):                           Yeah, so, in the beginning it was really difficult to kind of manage the Web DH position because I wasn’t planning to put like a lot more than 10 hours into the internship, especially because I’m a full-time student. So, managing everything at once, like, it was – and more and more interns were being added to my group. So, it was at around like 35 interns, with just me managing school and it was hard to kind of keep track of everybody, making sure I could answer their questions along with school. And then I had issues like people weren’t responding, people didn’t understand how to operate Trello, and there is nobody to answer questions other than me. So, it became very difficult trying to come up with ways to get around that and the way I did that was, I’d kinda got to a breaking point and I got up – I started to get up every day at like seven AM, even when my classes start at 10, and I’d write like a strict list and the timeline of everything I was gonna finish. And that really helped me because I detailed exactly when I was gonna work on the internship as opposed to just finishing all of my schoolwork and then hopping on the internship. I kinda prioritized the internship and that helped a lot with finishing everything.

(SA):                           Mhm. That’s a nice way to go about it. And that kind of leads pretty well to my next question. You know, we’re both full-time students, and this internship is 10 hours a week. How have you been managing time wise? Like you said kinda jotting down exactly what you need to do, but tell me a little bit about like maybe how you organize your day or what kind of tools have really been helpful for you to organize your time well.

(RT):                           So to organize my time I have like a big whiteboard in my dorm and I write down exactly what I’m gonna do, like that includes when I’m gonna shower, that includes when I’m gonna go get food and – it includes everything. And when I follow kinda that strict guideline, when I adhere to that schedule, I end up not wasting a lot of time for some reason. I don’t end up checking my phone a lot, I don’t end up going on new tabs and going on YouTube or something, I end up finishing all my work in time because I’m so focused on making sure I adhere to that schedule that I wrote so that has helped a lot.

(SA):                           Mhm. That’s pretty cool. Okay, could you also tell me, because like I mean, going into Web Development, then getting promoted to like the leadership position – could you tell me a little bit about like how you feel this internship has like helped your skills, like are there skills that you had previously that got sharpened, are there new skills that you have that have really come forward during this time?

(RT):                           Yeah, so I’ve had some like leadership roles in the past but this one in particular was really transformative in terms of my character because it’s the first time I encountered a lot of challenges with trying to like manage a large group of people at once. This was also a lot more than I’ve done before, like a lot more people in a group than I’ve done before, so – it definitely changed my character in terms of kind of getting on my stuff. It also helped a lot with my confidence, cause I had to reach out to people, I had my own meetings with people I’ve never met, and address a large people – a large individuals – group of individuals at once. Some who were kinda, really distraught and were thinking of leaving the internship and I kinda had to step into that uncomfortable zone and speak to them and that helped a lot with my character and I saw it kind of transfer over to my daily life. I was more confident with a bunch of other things as well.

(SA):                           Yeah, that is really cool. I know – and I think I’ve talked about this before, but I kinda had to step up to the XO position in my own team because ours left us very suddenly, and I knew that I wasn’t able to do both so I was interviewing people, and that was the first time I had like interviewed somebody for a job.

(RT):                           Mhm.

(SA):                           So man, like the confidence that you get from something like that – it’s amazing.

(RT):                           Yeah.

(SA):                           But you’ve seen that in like your daily life, like with classes? Are you a bit more confident talking in classes? Handing in work?

(RT):                           Yeah, I think I got a lot better with talking in front of classes with presentations. I think, cause we had like such a long break from that because of Covid, I wasn’t fully used to that and then I suddenly had to kinda get back into speed with this internship and it – I know it really helped me when I got to school because we didn’t start our like big presentations in school until after like a good chunk of the internship and I noticed that I was much more comfortable than I should’ve been, because I’d spent a lot of time, you know, talking to individuals and addressing a large group of people.

(SA):                           Yeah, that is really awe – that’s great, honestly. The confidence, even just doing the podcast, is amazing-

(RT):                           Yeah. Yeah.

(SA):                           And also being able to talk to people from completely different teams, like you’re Web Development! I – it’s amazing. Like, I’ve-

(RT):                           Yeah.

(SA):                           -loved it and then you taught me what a web ecosystem means.

Both:                          [Laughter]

(RT):                           Yep, there’s a lot of technical terms within Web Dev, I mean it’s really hard to – I think it would be even worse for the Web Security team, like they have to try to pull out a dictionary every time they explain something.

(SA):                           [Laughter] So, can you tell me a little bit about, like, how you found the internship? Cause, everybody has a different story for how they found it and I love hearing them.

(RT):                           Yeah. So, usually through our email we get like a bunch of, like different internship offerings and stuff just through our HR department. And I saw one that said Virtual Student Federal Service, that’s VSFS, pretty much ran by the Department of State and it’s like a bunch of projects that people can do remotely for an internship. And then I listed – we got to pick three options on that application and I listed Web Security as my first one and that’s what I got onboarded onto. So that’s pretty much how I found the internship, I got an email and I just applied to it – I usually apply to every single one that comes into my email, and that happened to be one of them.

(SA):                           Mhm. Yeah, you send – as a college kid, sending out so many applications, just all the time.

(RT);                           Yeah, pretty much.

(SA):                           Speaking of, like, do you have any like tips or advice to give to people who are applying to internships?

(RT):                           Like internships in general, or this one?

(SA):                           Internships in general, this one specifically – cause for me I have – the interview and application process was very different for the VSFS for the other ones I have applied to. But, either, both.

(RT):                           So, in general I would advise people to get as involved as possible in school with different projects, like every time you’re getting one of those little emails, make sure you apply cause that’s something to add to your resume.

(SA):                           Mhm.

(RT):                           And, a lot of the times, you’re gonna have opportunities to work on little projects in class, within class. And I know for a more technical role, like mine, that’s really helpful to add to your resume. So if you’re starting out and you kinda have like a blank resume or a short one, just add projects from class that you worked on in your experience section and that will help a lot. Especially with technical roles, when applying to internships.

(SA):                           Mhm. So, yeah, that definitely makes sense. Kind of having – having a portfolio.

(RT):                           Yeah, pretty much.

(SA):                           Okay, yeah. How do you feel, kind of – we talked a little bit about like, I guess soft skills, with confidence and how that confidence has carried into normal daily life, but maybe – and I may not understand all the terms that you use – but what are kind of like some hard skills or like technical skills that you feel like you’ve gotten?

(RT):                           Through this internship?

(SA):                           Mhm. Or maybe they just kind of got sharpened.

(RT):                           So definitely, I – my full major is in web security so I don’t deal with too much web development, so I definitely got a lot of experience with WordPress. WordPress is pretty much, like a website editing tool, that’s pretty much it, where you don’t have to actually code in an IDE – again that’s like a, it’s pretty much like a text editing document for writers, that’s pretty much what it would be for a web developer. That’s what and IDE would be. So, I got a lot of experience with WordPress, cause most of my web development experience has been in an integrated development environment, or IDE. So, that’s possibly the most technical refinement that I’ve got, in terms of that. I know I’ve used Trello for a different project before and I got a lot more comfortable with utilizing Trello here. Like, with stuff like changing colors and dragging different stuff around as opposed to just clicking and joining a task, because I took on that DH role I was kinda forced to work a lot more with Trello so that’s another big technical skill I gained.

(SA):                           Mm. Yeah that makes sense. I had no experience with Trello before coming into this internship-

(RT):                           Yeah.

(SA):                           Okay, well is there kind of any, like last words, kind of any sort of overarching theme that you would like to leave with everybody listening?

(RT):                           Mm. Follow your dreams-

Both:                          [Laughter]

(RT):                           And if you’d like to, I’d advise you to apply to the VA if you ever decide to enroll in the Federal – Student Federal Service. It has a lot of opportunities, and it can really help your resume and your career.

(SA):                           Awesome, thank you so much. Thank you everybody for listening, and we will see you next time. Bye.

(RT):                           Alright, I’ll do that.

(SA):                           Thank you so much.

(RT):                           Yep, have a good day.

(SA):                           You too! Nice meeting you.

(RT):                           Yep, nice meeting you.


(SA):                           Thank you so much for listening. Please don’t foget to subscribe and if you could give us a five-star rating, we’d really appreciate it. For more information about joining the DME interns team, please visit [Link:]. You can also follow us on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Once again, my name is Serena, and I hope to see you all next time. Bye.

(Text Transcript Ends)

Intern Podcast Episode: Maggie Thomas

Maggie is a sophomore majoring in International Studies and Spanish at the University of Mississippi. She’s interested in government and politics, specifically within Latin America and has plans to study abroad there next year. Currently, she works as a writing intern with the Borne the Battle Podcast, America250 and the Intern Blog. Outside of class, she participates in her school’s orchestra, Model UN and writes for the yearbook.

Maggie talks about her main responsibility of writing Veteran of the Day features and America250 articles, which are a Congressionally funded project that highlight veterans every week from now until the 250th anniversary of America. She gives insight into how she balances school, her extracurriculars and her internship, especially by carving out time for specific tasks and making lists each day. Maggie also talks a bit about the specific skills she has gained from her time in the internship, especially in virtual collaboration, time management and prioritizing certain tasks over others.

Lastly, Maggie mentions her favorite projects she has worked on so far, one of which being the opportunity to interview a classmate at her school for Veteran of the Day. Her future career goals include working for the government in a way that incorporates her passion for and skill in writing. Most recently, she has cultivated interests in nonproliferation, arms control agreements and international cooperation, and she hopes that these topics will be present in her future career.

Use the audio player to listen to Maggie’s full interview, or read the transcript below:


(Serena Aguilar): Hello, and welcome to the DME Interns podcast. I’m your host, Serena Aguilar. And I hope you will join me in learning about the DME interns, what they do and what they hope to do in the future.


(Serena Aguilar): Hello, everyone. Today, we have Maggie Thomas with us. Maggie Thomas is a sophomore in International Studies and Spanish at the University of Mississippi. She’s interested in government and politics specifically in Latin America and plans to study abroad there next year. Currently she is with us as a writing intern with the Borne the Battle podcast and America 250, as well as the Intern Blog. Outside of class, she likes to participate in the school’s orchestra, model UN team, and write for the yearbook. Maggie, how are you doing today?

(Maggie Thomas): I’m doing great. How are you?

(Serena Aguilar): I’m doing all right. I’m not sure about you, but over the Northeast has been very, very rainy.

(Maggie Thomas): Yeah. I’m in Mississippi, it’s been cold for the first time this year. Which is pretty great.

(Serena Aguilar): I hate the cold, so I’m a little jealous. So, Maggie, can you tell me a little bit about your role here in the DME Interns team?

(Maggie Thomas): Absolutely. So, I am a writing intern. My main role is to write up Veteran of the Day features, which are kind of our main blog posts that go up every single day on the VAntage Point blog. And I also work on some other projects like America 250 which is our congressionally funded research, sorry, a congressionally funded project that is highlighting 250 Veterans every Thursday from now until the 250th anniversary of America. Which is going to be at 2026. So that’s pretty exciting. And I also work for the DME Interns blog, as well. And I write for the Borne the Battle podcast. So, for the podcast, I do social media captions and a blog summary of podcast episodes.

(Serena Aguilar): Wow, you definitely got to handle a lot of things.

(Maggie Thomas): Yeah.

(Serena Aguilar): So, how do you kind of, that is a lot of work and like this sort of podcasts, the sort, sorry, the sort of internship is supposed to be like a minimum of 10 hours a week. And it definitely sounds like you are meeting, if not exceeding that, pretty much weekly. How do you kind of like balance school, your extracurriculars and the internship?

(Maggie Thomas): Something that I kind of make sure to do is like separate my time between school and the internship. Like, if I’m working on the internship, I kind of carve out time where I’m like, okay, the next hour and a half, I’m just going to create like…. I’m really big on list. So at the beginning of every day, I make a list of things that I have to do for both the internship and for school. And so in between my classes, it’s easier for me to work on the internship, but then after all my classes are done, I pretty much dedicate all of my time to schoolwork. And I just make sure that I’m completing like my little to-do lists every day, for both the internship and classes. Lists and working with my calendar, have been really helpful in keeping organized and making sure I’m not missing deadlines for either school or internship.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah. That sounds like a really good idea. I may have to try that. So how did you find the internship?

(Maggie Thomas): So, with my school, my major is like a kind of a separate Institute, like it’s a specialized program and so they send us out like, a lot of information all the time. There’s someone on the staff who, like, their kind of role is to connect us with things like internships and career opportunities. So she sent, she sends out internship information all the time. And over the Summer she sent out an email about the VSFs, the Virtual Federal Service, which is how I heard about this internship. And it seemed like, it seemed pretty interesting. I honestly did not expect to get one. I kind of just applied to just practice applying and like writing application essays, but I heard back about this internship, like really quickly. I’ve heard back like a week after I applied.

(Serena Aguilar): That is pretty good. I think, I think mine was about two weeks-ish. Just cause of the ones I applied for, but yeah, no, I really love the VSFs just because it there’s so many different projects. It is amazing. And it’s not just poly PSI or like international relations people. There are projects about like conservation and people looking for coding and I’m like, oh, that’s pretty, that’s pretty cool.

(Maggie Thomas): It was honestly overwhelming looking at projects. It took me like, several days to even figure out which ones I was going to apply to. But this one sounded the most like interesting to me and like applicable to my skills. So.

(Serena Aguilar): Oh, yeah. And the fact that you can only apply to three VSFs internships, like it’s so stressful. So, what’s been kind of a favorite assignment or project of yours since starting the internship? This can be like an overarching one, or maybe a very specific task that you were assigned to do.

(Maggie Thomas): I think honestly, like, two come to mind. Most recently, so the Veteran of the Day yesterday was Timothy Vitale. And this was a Veteran that actually attends my University. He retired from the service, served in the Navy for 20 years and he, I was able to like connect with him and do an interview with him on zoom. And that’s the only Veteran of the Day so far that I’ve been able to actually interview myself. Most of the other Veteran of the Day that I do are either public submissions, where I basically get a pretty extensive bio and kind of timeline of their military service. And sometimes their LinkedIn, which is really helpful, or I write from the Veterans History Project, which is like a database of a bunch of video interviews and photos from, like Veterans just throughout history, but this, this Veteran of the Day, I got to actually think of like the questions and information that I included in the feature as well as meet him and then kind of talk to him. And so yesterday I got to send him the link to the Veteran of the Day feature and he was really excited about it, which was really, really special to kind of see that the work that I do actually does make people happy and help people because… It’s with a virtual internship, it’s kind of hard to feel connected to the work you do, I feel like. And so it was really nice to feel like a deeper connection sort of to the work. And then the other one for the America 250 and this one hasn’t been posted yet or even finished. But, so I’m from Georgia. I’m from Atlanta. And I got assigned to do an America 250 feature on Jimmy Carter. Who not many people know is like a Navy Veteran. And so, I got to write like a pretty extensive feature about his military history and his, just his career as someone serving our country. And so that was really important cause I’ve learned about Jimmy Carter a lot throughout my life since I’m from Georgia.

(Serena Aguilar): So do you have any like career goals that you’re looking at? Whether that’s like a really, I know that’s a terrifying question, whether that’s like a general sort of scope or a very like specific, like, yes, I want to do this.

(Maggie Thomas): I definitely don’t have a specific career goal in mind. But, as for like my interests, I’m really interested in working for the government. I’m really interested in writing. I think writing is probably like the biggest, like skill that I have to contribute. I definitely want to have a career that incorporates, like writing and working for the government.

One of my interests recently has become, like, international treaties regarding like arms control. I’m taking a class right now called international politics of nuclear weapons, where we learn a lot about nonproliferation efforts and kind of like how America and just the UN security council contributes to those efforts. So, if I could work in a space relating to like arms control or international cooperation, that would be probably ideal.

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah. And there’s definitely room for that. Like, for writing interns, I always feel like if you’re going into something politics, having good writing skills is the basis for everything.

(Maggie Thomas): Absolutely. I totally agree. And that’s one of the reasons why I decided to apply for this internship was because, you know, I’ve liked writing my whole life. And I just thought, like, this is a great way to kind of like improve my writing skills. And like, like I’ve talked about, I’m doing a lot of different projects that require a lot of different, like writing styles, not styles, but a lot of different writing skills and certain projects go more in depth about like specific military experiences more than others. Where like, like a Veteran of the Day posts is going to be 300 to 400 words, a very short picture of someone’s, military service and life experiences. Whereas an America 250 is going to be between 400 and 700 words. So, like the scope of writing something that long versus a Veteran of the Day posts versus a Twitter caption for the Borne the Battle podcast, which is, you know, limited to 250 characters. I’ve definitely had to challenge myself a lot and learn a lot of different writing, kind of tricks very quickly. So, it’s been good.

(Serena Aguilar): No, that is very good. I, once one of my favorite professors, she was the first professor I ever had that said, if you give me a paper that is more than four pages, I will deduct points. And that was terrifying.

(Maggie Thomas): We think the writing is so, it’s such a crazy constraint. Like, you just don’t even think about how much you want to write. Like, with some of these Veterans, I get descriptions that are very, very short. And so I have to turn it into something that is a lot longer than what I have, without like editorializing their experiences, of course. Sometimes, I have the opposite. I have an extremely long, like hour and a half interview. Like, oral interview with someone that I have to turn it into something that’s 300 to 400 words. So definitely length is a big constraint within my job. Isn’t it?

(Serena Aguilar): Yeah. And even just having like a portfolio to go into different jobs and different internships with and saying, yes, I wrote these.

These is, this is what I did. This is what I contributed. And you can see it. So, past the kind of writing skills, because we’ve talked about that a little bit. What other skills from the internship do you feel like either you’ve gotten new skills or you’ve kind of refined some old ones that you think are going to help you in the future?

(Maggie Thomas): That’s a pretty good question. I feel like, virtual collaboration is like, like, I know that’s what it says on LinkedIn. That’s a very like, vague term, but I really think that that is a skill that is so difficult to learn, like just becoming literate with Slack and Trello and all of the different websites that we use in this internship. And also, just learning how to communicate with other people, that are in different time zones, that are in different states, different departments, like, doing things like this. Where I’m on like a podcast, I’ve never done this before and I’m much better at setting up meetings, making like small connections with other people that end up being beneficial, in like just work and just kind of like school and all the different types of spaces. There… So virtual collaboration is a big one. Time management organization is also a very vague phrase, but it’s super important. Like, we were talking about managing school versus the 10 hours of this internship has definitely been a challenge. And another thing is kind of like being able to say “no” sort of, like being able to dedicate myself to just like the four projects that I’m involved with and not continuing taking on more and more things. Because as a writing intern, there are so many different teams and opportunities that you can get involved in. And so it has been difficult to kind of hold myself back from stretching myself too thin across multiple different projects. So, I think that’s definitely a skill that’s going to help me personally in life, is just kind of focusing on the things that I’m doing now and getting better at them rather than doing more and more different projects.  And that’s been one of the most difficult things to kind of learn.

(Serena Aguilar): Oh yeah. Setting boundaries is so difficult to learn. Because you’ve got to, you’ve got to realize how valuable your time is as well as learning how much time you can devote to something, before you’re stretching yourself too thin. And then you’re not putting through good work.

(Maggie Thomas): Absolutely. Yeah.

(Serena Aguilar): So, if you could give advice to people who are either looking into applying for the DME Interns project, or they’re looking just to apply for VSFs in general, what kind of advice would you give future applicants?

(Maggie Thomas): I think that’s something that I thought about while I was applying to different VSFs projects was, what’s a skill that I have that I am good at, but I could improve on and also a skill that is I’m not going to get sick of doing. Like writing for me, that’s my whole job with this internship is writing lots of different things. I considered myself to be a good writer before this internship. So, I’ve had like kind of a reckoning with my writing ability has improved a lot over the last, gosh, I’ve been in it for two months already. So just pick a skill that you’re comfortable with stretching and improving upon, and maybe like pushing your limits with a little bit. Like, if you think that you’re a really good writer and you go into an intern, a writing internship, and you maybe learn that you’re not as great of a writer as you thought originally, if that’s gonna like crush you then probably don’t pick that one. Like, if you’re not willing to work at this scale and grow this scale, then maybe don’t pick an internship that’s focused around that skill. So, like with writing, you want to make sure that you’re open to learning new writing styles and new writing, like techniques. Like with, if you’re working on a podcast, you need to make sure you’re willing to learn different ways to talk to people. And you know, all the skills that are involved in like podcast production that I am not smart enough to understand. Just be really open to developing the skills that you already have and learning new ones is the biggest thing.

(Serena Aguilar): Oh yeah. I mean, listen, I was not like an official podcast host before taking on this internship. I get severe phone anxiety when I’m calling the doctor’s office. So, for me, this was about, I know I can handle sharpening this skill. So, yeah, that’s really important. All right. This has been an awesome conversation, Maggie. Is there any like, last words that you want to leave anybody with?

(Maggie Thomas): No, I guess I would just say, make sure you’re picking something that you really enjoy when you’re trying out for an, or trying to apply for an internship because that’s the most important thing. I really love being a writing intern and I just hope that everybody can find internships that they love as much as I love this one. And thank you so much for having me on.

(Serena Aguilar): Thank you so much for joining us and thank you everybody for listening, and we will see you next time.


(Serena Aguilar): Thank you so much for listening. Please, don’t forget to subscribe. And if you could give us a five star rating, we’d really appreciate it. For more information about joining the DME Interns team, please visit You can also follow us on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Once again, my name is Serena and I hope to see you all next time. Bye.


Project Spotlight: America250

On July 4, 2026, America is celebrating its 250th birthday. America250, an organization seeking to commemorate this anniversary, has started many initiatives both locally and nationwide to celebrate this historic day, and the Department of Veterans Affairs is joining the initiative! Every Thursday until July 2, 2026, an America250 article will appear on VAntage Point and the VA’s social media platforms. In total, 250 Veterans will be featured.

The Vets who will appear in America250 include Medal of Honor recipients, trailblazers and others who have served. One post we’ve featured is Army Air Forces Veteran Ola Mildred Rexroat. Rexroat was the only Native American among 1,073 other women pilots who served in the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) organization during World War II. She greatly enjoyed serving in the Army Air Forces, and after the war, she joined the newly formed Air Force and served as an air traffic controller during the Korean War. She was also the first female air traffic controller to work for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Another example of an America250 story is that of Medal of Honor recipient and Navy Veteran Michael Monsoor. Monsoor served during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Navy SEAL and was stationed in Ramadi. During a mission in September 2009, Monsoor and two other SEALs were based on a rooftop watching for enemy activity when a grenade landed near them. Monsoor threw himself onto the grenade, saving the lives of his two teammates and later passing away from his injuries. In 2008, he posthumously received a Medal of Honor.

Other people set to appear on the blog include one of the first female African American officers in the Navy, a World War I Veteran who received a Medal of Honor from two branches of the military and several Nobel Prize winners.

This project is not only long-lasting but internship-wide as it is being worked on by writing interns with the help of interns from other departments. Many stories from both well-known and little-known Veterans are in the works, and we look forward to telling them all. To see past America250 cards, you can visit


Writer: Sarah Concepcion

Editors: Annabelle Colton, Merrit Pope

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

Human Resources: How Interns Go Through the DME

Human Resources (HR) is an important department in many real-world companies. But on the Digital Media Engagement (DME) team, HR differs in certain ways. “Most HR professionals incorporate aspects of our engagement, metrics, onboarding, offboarding, and recruitment teams. HR professionals also deal with conflict resolution, payroll issues, and strategic planning,” said Calley Walker, the HR division officer. “We do not perform these tasks at the DME.”

“[And] while the work we do at the DME program is not quite the same as the work you might find in a corporate organization or business, there are still people who need coordination, guidance, and management,” she added. One of the most important parts of HR work is the onboarding of new interns at the beginning of the internship year, and the HR boarding packet is a key part of this process. “The emphasis on familiarizing interns with the mechanics of the internship is vital to our onboarding process,” said Jazlyn Benitez, the HR department head, “because it enables interns to feel confident in knowing what is expected of them as an intern. It also helps to maintain the equilibrium of the internship itself — no one can follow the rules if they do not even know what the rules are, and a lack of rules can lead to chaos.”

Certain skills are required for doing HR work. “Successful HR professionals need to have great time management skills, an excellent communication style, and HR professionals need to be detail-oriented,” Calley said. “It is important for HR professionals to be able to relay their messages to fellow employees, and in our situation, interns. It is equally important for HR professionals to be able to manage their time well.” But interns can gain skills while working in HR, too, such as learning to utilize multiple programs like Canva, Salesforce and Google Office or doing cross-department work with departments like Web Development.

For Jazlyn, working in HR has also taught her more about what she’d like to do in her professional career. “I’m fairly new to the world of HR, as I very recently decided that my career goal is to be an Industrial-Organizational psychologist (which is a career that uses concepts of HR and collaborates with HR departments),” she admitted. “I’ve never had an internship like this one before! I love getting to learn new things about the world of HR and building a more solid foundation for my future career. It’s also very rewarding to be able to communicate with a variety of people from such different backgrounds. It’s been opening me up to many different perspectives and giving me firsthand experience on how to collaborate with a variety of different people.”

“Even though DME HR interns are not generally given tasks that deal with these HR aspects, there may be times where HR leadership members or other interns will need to address their concerns to other leadership,” explained Elizabeth Carter, part of HR’s executive leader team. The HR department serves as a guiding and supportive force for the entire DME internship. Without a department that manages and analyzes intern data, it can be hard to determine the effectiveness of the whole internship.”

Writer: Sarah Concepcion

Editors: Annabelle Colton, Merrit Pope

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

College Advice for Freshmen

Beginning college can be a major life change for any freshman, whether attending close to home or even miles away. Feelings of homesickness, anxiety and being overwhelmed will creep in the second you stand on your new campus. It’s important to remember that every freshman goes through these same doubts and feelings; the key is to push past them and jump in feet first.


The first few weeks of college are critical for freshmen. One of the most important tips for an incoming college freshman would be to attend all the orientation activities your university has planned for you. While this may seem nerve-racking and sometimes not even worth your time, orientation can be one of the most important starting points in college. You may not believe so at first, but this is most likely where you will meet friends that will stick with you for the next few years. Orientation not only offers you an easy place to find new friends and meet potential classmates but also lots of information about your university. Attending orientation can make your transition to college a lot smoother and provide you with resources and connections to get you through the first semester.

Dorm Life

If you’re living in a dorm, then you most likely have roommate(s) and maybe even share certain facilities with others. Know that it may take some time to adjust to living in a dorm with others. Speak up if you are unhappy with your roommate or living situation, as usually there is an upperclassman overseeing your floor or rooms that can help resolve any issues you come across. Try to get to know not just your roommate, of course, but also others on your floor. The more faces you recognize, the more comfortable living alongside them will become.

Professors and Academic Advisors

Getting to know your professors and academic advisors is very important to do as a freshman. Take advantage of the office hours that your professors hold and get to know them outside of class. Doing so may not only help your performance in the class but also provide you connections with those in your field. Your advisors help you register for classes, resolve any class conflicts, schedule classes, plan future semesters and help you to declare your major/minor(s). Making sure you reach out to them for all your academic questions will help you make sure your plans are meeting university requirements. Getting core classes out of the way may be beneficial to you, so schedule an appointment with your advisor and learn about how to plan the right semester. You do not want to be lost during the day of your class registration and find yourself stuck taking random elective courses at 7 A.M.

Writer: Madison Eberhardt

Editors: Alexander Reza, Annabelle Colton

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

Back to School: Advice for Former Military Students

Sapna Sitapara graduated from high school before entering the workforce as a sales associate at a retail store. With the support from her parents and loved ones, she waited a year before launching her military aspirations. A 91B in the Army, she worked as a mechanic in Germany at the Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Kaiserslautern where she learned valuable leadership skills and quickly adapted to working long shifts within a motor pool. It was the value of an organization in a tight-knit group that taught her communication and the ability to quickly adapt to working long shifts. . Later on, Sitapara was assigned to the Armory, where  she worked alongside military police inventoryingM4 and M9 guns and ammo (in her early 20s, she was accountable for millions of dollars of equipment and working a demanding schedule). Not many people can handle on-call shifts, but Sitapara pulled 24-hour shifts every other day. This demanding level of work helped her develop structure which translated in to her time as a student.

Penn State University, a school renowned for Computer Science, attracted Sitapara because of its flexible remote learning campus and helpful Veterans office. The staff helped her sign up within five to 10 minutes, and she was able to enroll quickly upon leaving the Army. 

Transitioning to civilian life was made easier using the GI bill. Sitapara was able to focus on what she wanted to do by working out and committing her schedule to being a full-time student. “The Army really shaped my career and in college – group-oriented projects and leadership learned from being in the Army helped me. It’s about managing time and speaking with people,” Sitapara said.

Sitapara spent time on integration and application and front-end disciplines in her pursuit of a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology. Taking classes back-to-back, she will graduate early next semester and hopes to work in Cybersecurity and Web Content Management. Sitapara currently helps the Web Content Management team at Digital Media Engagement (DME).

Her User Experience (UX)/User Interface (UI) fluency in WordPress allows her to apply her expertise learned at Penn State to her current internship. Interested in learning more? We are looking for computer-savvy volunteers to join our team at DME! Apply now at:

Writer: Alexis White

Editors: Annabelle Colton, Julia Pack

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

A Journey through Onboarding with the DME

Onboarding is the process that you go through when you first start an internship. Onboarding familiarizes a new intern with everything that they need to know to get started. An intern will need to read through informative and instructional packets, watch relevant tutorial videos, complete any required training quizzes and boot camps and download any necessary applications. It can be a very overwhelming process, so here are some guidelines and tips to ease your onboarding stress here at the DME.

You have finally gotten an email detailing your login information for the DME website. This important email also contains your onboarding packet, which explains the process you must complete to officially start actual internship work. Read through this packet carefully; all the information detailed in the packet is there for a reason! Make sure you are able to login correctly to the DME website; download and join the Slack channel (while also ensuring you set up your profile correctly); and begin your department’s boot camp. Links will be included within the packet to help you with this. One tip that may ease any overwhelming feelings from reading the packet is to save useful links somewhere you can always access them, such as on your laptop’s notes application. Furthermore, write down bullet points of anything you may need to be reminded of while first starting the internship.

After you complete your department’s boot camp and the general boot camp, send a screenshot of your completion to your department heads. Make sure you have everything set up to get started on actual work. Download and save any documents that you will have to reference later. This will make starting new work easier and ensure you are correctly doing your work. Most importantly, do not forget about completing your weekly report. Throughout the week, make sure you are updating this report to reflect all the work you are doing. You will need to send these reports every Thursday (by midnight in your time zone) by email, so do not forget about them! As a new intern, you are not expected to complete the required 10 hours right away. Just make sure you are noting all the onboarding requirements in your weekly report to show your department heads where you are in the process!

All interns must go through the onboarding process, so do not be afraid to ask questions in the Slack “onboarding” channel or email fellow interns. Ciedelle Estipona, a current DME intern from the Web Content department, recommends “being proactive and asking leadership” about any questions or concerns you may have. This will make the onboarding process easier and can get you acquainted with the new network of interns working alongside you. Podcast Translation intern Paulina Riffey agrees with this piece of advice. She also believes that not being afraid to reach out to your department heads, whether through Slack or email, can be helpful during the onboarding process. Lastly, one of the current Writing interns, Ryan Beane, makes the point that new interns should be sure to “read through all the resources available to understand what the internship can offer.” Even though this can be a lot of information to take in, ensuring you have read it all thoroughly will help you once you finish onboarding and start actual work!

Overall, the onboarding process is crucial to ensuring you are equipped with the necessary tools and skills to begin internship work. Read through your emails and the onboarding packet thoroughly and pay attention to both boot camps you complete. While completing this process, take notes! Reach out to your fellow interns and department heads. Watch tutorial videos on the DME website. Ask questions on the Slack channel or in your weekly reports. Onboarding does not have to be an overwhelming experience; it can get you excited and prepared to begin your internship journey.


Writer: Madison Eberhardt

Editors: Nathaniel Scott, Annabelle Colton

Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley

Want to learn more about the DME Podcast Department?

Check out the Podcast Department page or learn how you can apply on the How to Apply page