What It’s Like as a Writing Department Head in a VSFS VA Internship

My name is Jewel Luckow and I am a junior at Washington and Lee University. I worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Digital Media Engagement (DME) writing intern from September 2019 until June 2020, at which point I was promoted to my current position as a Writing Co-Department Head (Co-DH) intern, along with my coworker Sarah. Writing DHs have a lot of responsibilities, but we only work the same 10 hours per week as every other Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) intern, which is why there are two of us.

I applied for the VSFS program in July 2019 because my grandma heard about the program and encouraged me to apply. I honestly didn’t think I’d get a placement that year because I was a sophomore in college and most VSFS projects explicitly prioritized seniors and graduate students. I was surprised to get an offer from the writing department not only because of my class standing, but also because I intended to declare majors in economics and German. I still declared those majors, along with a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, but being a writing intern and transitioning into a Co-DH role has complemented my academics well. Being able to collaborate and lead in a fully virtual work environment significantly eased my transition to online learning last spring and I think that skillset will set me apart when I begin my post-college job search.

As a Co-DH, my biggest responsibilities include communicating with my department’s interns and ensuring that our written content is high quality and completed in a timely manner. I spend a lot of time developing training materials and responding to reports and questions. However, I still have some time to work on writing projects. Most recently, I worked as part of a team including four other writers, five editors, three researchers and two graphic designers to produce the 2020 Biennial Report to Congress Veteran Outreach Activities (publication in late 2020). It was a great experience to collaborate on something so important with such a large team; not to mention, very few college juniors have a Congressional report on their resume!

If you are interested in a DH role, I would suggest working as a regular intern in your department of interest or a closely related department first, especially if you don’t have much work experience. Once in such a role, being reliable and willing to go above and beyond are the most important things you can do to demonstrate your readiness for a leadership position!
Editor: Elissa Tatum