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UI intern finds space to thrive at Johnson Center

Vivian Le                                                       October 3, 2016.

A University of Iowa journalism student had the opportunity to spread her career wings, and she seized it.

Faith Wenger spent her summer at the NASA Johnson Space Center as a public-affairs and technology-transfer intern.

 

Originally, Wenger hoped that she could pair her interest in public relations, technology, and entrepreneurship to land her a multimedia storytelling job at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

After a phone interview with Goddard, she was told she would be notified about the position within a month. However, a few days after her interview, she received a phone call from Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Johnson Officials had found her application online. 

“When I got off the phone, it was mixture of excitement, but I was also terrified,” she said.

She was offered a job the next morning.

Currently, she is working toward a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management. Wenger said her interest in entrepreneurship paired with journalism did not make sense to her originally, but she followed her gut and continued to take entrepreneurship classes. In the end, it got her to NASA.

During her internship, she spent time creating content for NASA’s social media and website, introducing new technology being developed by the organization. Wenger said the organization was working toward expanding its multimedia platforms by producing more interactive content such as videos and moving away from traditional print.

“I was on the Snapchat story over the summer on the NASA account,” she said. “We did a live stream on Facebook with an astronaut, and I got to produce one video about NASA’s Modular Robotic Vehicle.”

While she was at NASA, she explored the facilities to supplement her work experience.

“NASA was kind of like a campus,” Wenger said. “It was nice that everyone worked on so many different things, so you learned about so many different projects. Every day, you got to learn about a new type of technology or something like a mission that NASA was working on.  You were never bored; you were always working on something and being challenged in a different way.”

Wenger is only one of many journalism students who have received a similar internship of this scale.

“We find, in a given summer, about 95 students are out some place interning literally all over the place from Iowa to China,” said Paul Jensen, the job and placement coordinator for the UI School of Journalism & Mass Communications. “It’s kind of amazing where our students manage to land.”

David Ryfe, the director of UI journalism school, said Wenger’s internship is great exposure to a national agency.

“Our students for a very long time have gotten these kinds of internships whether they’re working at politico.com in Washington, D.C., or they’re working for Cosmopolitan, or they’re working at NASA,” he said.

However, one of the stumbling blocks for some students who are offered these internships has been money, which can cause apprehension for some students who cannot financially afford it.

“Typically, to get those internships, you have to go to Houston, or New York, or Los Angeles, or some other expensive city,” Ryfe said. “So one of the things we’ve recently done is shifted some of our scholarship money to internships.”

Beginning this year, the UI journalism school will put aside $20,000 to help defray the expenses of prestigious internships for its students. The money will become available for students next summer.

“The more of our students who have those experience, the better the jobs they get when they leave the school, the happier they are with their experiences here, and then we feel like we’ve done our job,” Ryfe said.

 

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