Leah Comins

Editing Intern with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs




Interview by Elizabeth Brunette

Major: Strategic communication with an emphasis in public relations, double major in political science
Graduation year: May 2019

With which organization did you intern?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (through the Department of State’s Virtual Student Federal Service program)

Where is it located?

It’s virtual - so it’s located wherever I want!

How did you find out about the internship?

I found this internship when I was interested in working in the federal government. I came across the VSFS program by just doing research on federal government internships. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I applied, but I liked that the program seemed diverse in the types of projects and agencies, was flexible with time commitment and was a good pathway into federal employment.

What were your responsibilities?

I work as an editing intern for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. I work with content for the VA’s office of Digital Media Engagement, such as #VeteranoftheDay posts, that are written by fellow interns. I review the submissions according to AP Style and standards of the VA’s office of Digital Media Engagement. The writings are then submitted for publishing on the VAntage Point blog, a public site visited 600,000+ times per month. I also recently became the project manager for a digital project the VA interns are piloting this year. I manage a team of 25 virtual interns working on the “A Veteran's Story” project by setting expectations and a direction for the project, ensuring projects are being completed in a timely manner, and addressing any questions or concerns that arise regarding the new project.

What did you most enjoy?

My favorite thing about this position is how in line it is with my values and interests. I enjoy being able to recognize unsung, everyday heroes. I have learned so much about the amazing deeds veterans do and the sacrifices they make. Our goal in creating #VeteranoftheDay posts is to help give the recognition that every veteran deserves. Each veteran has sacrificed something for our country, and they all deserve to have their stories told and honored.

What is something that you learned from your internship experience?

One of the most important things I’ve learned is to appreciate the different skills and abilities your connections and colleagues can bring to your position. Our intern team is made up of about 130 interns who have responsibilities in writing, editing, graphic design, research, video production, web development and more. The pieces we produce for the VA would not be possible without interns from each of the teams.  

How will your internship help you in your future studies/career?

Each of my responsibilities at my internship revolves around writing. As an editing intern, I am responsible for reviewing written work and making corrections as needed. Reviewing the work of others also helps me become a better writer. In addition, considering our audience when creating our #VeteranoftheDay pieces is an important responsibility. We must be careful to not sensationalize or editorialize the service of any veteran we feature. This includes carefully considering word choice and phrasing. As a future public relations professional I will be working with the media and public, which will require advanced communication skills and an understanding of messaging strategies. Properly communicating a message for the intended audience is crucial for any communications professional. In addition, understanding that my communications work is a representation of the VA makes proper communication one of my most important obligations. These are each lessons that will transfer to my future career.

What's one piece of advice you would give other students about securing an exciting internship?

Take advantage of the opportunities you find - you may gain great experiences from a position you’re doubtful about! I wasn’t sure how beneficial a virtual internship would be, but I’ve gotten a lot of experience and opportunities and made many connections through this position. Plus, I love the work that I do with the VA.

Leah Comins