My time at Voice of America (VOA) has been a deeply fulfilling experience. Like most United States citizens, I had heard very little about our government’s international broadcasting service, merely murmurs from older generations about the role it played in World War II, or how it once penetrated the Iron Curtain to bring truth to oppressed peoples. I later learned that my unfamiliarity with VOA was by design; written into law to prevent the perception of propaganda, lest the organization be used as a tool against its citizens. In my hours spent working within the historic Cohen building, researching the endeavors of directors past, and leading studio tours to the public, I learned to appreciate the quiet influence that Voice of America has had in shaping our image abroad for over 75 years.
Through my main project, drafting bios of VOA’s eclectic group of past directors, I assumed the role of a historian, researching and compiling bits and pieces of information to build a better picture of how these men and women impacted the organization, and in turn, helped shape the United States’ international public image. This project gave me a better understanding of the history and importance of VOA, and the kernels of information I found provided context for new discoveries to be made. I learned of John Houseman, VOA’s first director, who was an Academy Award winning actor, acclaimed radio broadcaster and highly successful director to boot. I also researched Robert Button, an accomplished diplomat so inspired by music and cultural exchange that he created new radio programing to emphasize that content. I even went as far as speaking with his daughter, a university professor with her own unique perspective to give on her father’s legacy.
One of my favorite experiences within this internship was the opportunity to accompany the news team during the State of the Union Address. Set up in the Russel Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, we caught the attention of representatives and senators to ask their thoughts on the address and the Trump presidency. It was a pleasure to work with a D.C.-based news organization during such a significant time in U.S. political history, which included two brief government shutdowns.
Without the support of my manager, Michelle, and the rest of the Public Relations team, including Bridget, Anna, Julia, George, and Nigel, I would not have had the wonderful experience that I did these past ten weeks. I am grateful for my time with Voice of America, and will look back fondly on my experience in the UCDC program.
Andrew is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, working towards a degree in Business Management Economics with a minor in Technology and Information Management. With previous experience in public and media relations, product marketing, and content creation, he hopes to kick-start a career in communications after graduation, with a focus in biotechnology, health care, or politics.