Reynolds School of Journalism student Summer Origenes has found a sweet spot in her advancing professional career.
While she has had several internships over the last few years, Origenes’ experience as the community outreach intern for NASA has brought a new opportunity to merge two of her interests together: digital communication and astronomy.
Origenes began her remote internship at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in August and has been tasked with creating social media aimed at engaging local communities in science with the younger generation in mind. Ahead of the total eclipse happening in April 2024—an event that won’t happen again for another 21 years in the United States—Origenes believes this internship is a once in a lifetime experience.
The communications team at NASA is preparing for their total eclipse campaign, and Origenes believes she has already benefited from being a part of it. “[NASA] is doing projects that are for humanity,” Origenes said. “I've had another government role in the past, and this is something so completely different from anything I've ever worked in before. The passion that people have, it’s been around for decades, which I love.”
The total eclipse campaign has been a highlight of Origenes’ time at NASA, whether she is passing out eclipse glasses or creating colorful posters that can be found in public libraries, the experience she has gained from this internship will carry into the next step in her career.
Learn more about Summer’s experience in the Q&A below.
Q: “What motivated you to pursue this internship, and how did you secure this opportunity?”
A: “I am on [LinkedIn] all the time. Especially since I will be graduating soon, it was just the stress of FOMO. What if I miss a really good, cool job opportunity? I followed NASA's page for a while, and I followed some of the university recruiters and I saw that they posted about NASA internships. I was looking for something for the fall just to finish it all off. I cold applied just to see what would happen.”
Q: “How did this internship with NASA vary from any other internships you have had in the past?”
A: “The other government position I had was for the Nevada Department of Agriculture as the communications intern. I was doing a lot more traditional press releases and working on social media graphics. Then over the summer I worked at Autodesk, which is a software company. These different experiences made me more adaptable to different writing strategies and reaching different audiences. I think that is kind of what led me to this NASA internship as the community outreach intern.
I was really reflecting on how different it is because before I didn't really have to design or create anything that would go out for, public outreach kind of communications. It was more so we send press releases out to media and then they distribute the story. But on this campaign, we're working directly with local community staples. This means public libraries and communities that are oriented towards kids. This was something that was actually pretty new to me. I never really thought I would be doing communications or designing anything with having like younger generations in mind. It's fun.”
Q: “What skills and knowledge from your courses at the Reynolds School did you find most valuable?”
A: “I really got started in print advertising because at the end of my freshman year, right around when COVID hit, Todd Felts and Allison Gaulden created a COVID campaign for students. It was a student led PR team called Wolfpack Relations, that's where I learned so much about PR. I didn’t even know what a press release was, I had just declared my journalism major. There were strategies that I had never heard of before. It was a really cool opportunity to have firsthand experience creating communications campaigns while learning about them in class and in lecture.
Something about the RSJ is that they do a fantastic job of making sure that you have firsthand experience with a lot of things. I would have never gotten as much experience with graphic design as I did. You have to try everything that's involved with media, which is unheard of in so many different journalism programs. It is a super unique experience. And I really love the professors.”
Q: “How do you believe this internship has influenced your career aspirations or your approach to journalism?”
A: “I was so focused on having roles that were specific to the traditional communications path where I sit down, create contacts with media, and write press releases. Science communication was something that I felt was very important, but I kind of just forgot that I could go down that path as well. I am glad that I found the NASA internships and I applied because community outreach is just super fun. Especially when we're working with public libraries and public education, back to the roots of what I'm really passionate about, getting people engaged and excited about science.”
Q: “What advice would you give to other journalism students who are interested in pursuing internships or similar roles with organizations like NASA?”
A: “I would say the biggest thing is to try so many different roles, so many different companies, organizations, and industries. It's better to apply than to not have at all and never know if you would have gotten it. Figure out what you like, or what you love, and what you hate. I feel like that's a huge one. Once you figure out what you hate, it will make your path so much clearer. Try as much as possible. It's a very limited time in college, so make the most of it.”