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Michaela Becconsall - Public Relations Intern

I first heard about Voice of America not through my coursework at American University, but through my friends and classmates who had fantastic experiences interning at VOA. They talked about this mysterious federal agency that was also a news network, and I was perpetually a little confused. Everyone said it was such a dynamic place to work and how they were able to experience and learn about so many different issues in both the government and the media. In hindsight, what I heard about their time at VOA was an understatement.

VOA is a federal government agency. It is also a place filled with journalists from all over the globe. This creates a fascinating, diverse culture that allowed me to experience in a professional context much of what I had learned about in my course work and, in turn, gave me a great foundation for a career in the international sector. I learned about federal procedures and regulations, as well as journalistic best practices. VOA broadcasts in 47 different languages, which means there is a whole world under one roof. Working across all the language services really allowed me to use the skills I learned in my cross-cultural communications coursework and gain valuable cultural competency skills.

Much of my time at VOA Public Relations has been dedicated to developing external communication materials, but I was able to discover my passion for internal communications as well. I helped to schedule and was able to attend some informal meetings between language services and VOA Director Amanda Bennett. I also helped prepare and facilitate two VOA workforce town halls. It is amazing to see how much small actions and listening by leadership can impact the culture of a workplace.

Most days I conducted the daily 40-minute public tour of VOA, which allowed me to meet people from all walks of life. Sometimes they were American citizens visiting Washington who had never heard of VOA before and came out amazed by the agency’s work. Other times they were regular VOA listeners visiting from other countries. Most amazing were the frequent stories from people who listened to Voice of America in their youth under oppressive regimes and related how VOA’s programs affected their choices to either escape or rebel in some way. It was so moving to hear these stories and to know that more stories like theirs are being created every day as a result of the work being done in the Cohen building.

There have been many other projects that I tackled while interning at VOA PR, from researching upcoming elections VOA will cover and outlining outreach targets for events and media pitches to assisting in developing a new factsheet about all of our music programs. I was able to author original content for multiple social media platforms, as well as create a plan to redo the display case in our tour area.

I have loved my time at Voice of America Public Relations, and, above all I loved the people I worked with. I am so grateful for their time and patience to teach and explain so many aspects of such a complex workplace. Being able to experience a smaller department has been truly invaluable. I know the mentorship I received at VOA PR will follow me where ever I go from here professionally.

Future Plans: I have been offered a Project Coordinator position at the International Development Group LLC. I hope to someday work abroad and get a master’s degree in International Development with a focus on monitoring and evaluation.

About Michaela Becconsall: Michaela is a graduate of American University with a degree in International Studies and Economics. During her time at AU, she was the president of She’s the First, a girl’s education fundraising and advocacy club on campus. She served on the executive board of her sorority Phi Sigma Sigma twice. Her past professional experience includes an internship while studying abroad in Nairobi, Kenya. She is originally from Long Island, New York.

Michael Valenti - Public Relations Intern

Future plans: Teaching English in South East or East Asia. Coming back to DC to work in communications or public relations. Get a masters degree in marketing and strategic communications.

I heard about VOA through some of my classes at American University, where I am a literature and political science major, and have been aware of the mission for some time. Coincidentally, a close friend and AU classmate, Zayne Patel, was an intern here in the PR office last summer in 2018 and told me many stories about his experiences in the office. Zayne shared with me descriptions of the many interesting events he was attending and the people that he was meeting while here and then suggested that I apply for a VOA internship the following summer. My previous internships and my focus has been on public relations and the world of strategic communications, something that I was able to really focus on with the important and lasting work that I completed here at VOA.

My work during my internship in the PR office consisted of aiding in the auditing and rebranding campaign in the main offices and across the world in the different bureaus, drafting copy and outreach emails for VOA materials and content, including the 2021 and 2022 audience calendars, as well as researching individuals and organizations who contacted VOA employees and the PR office and leading an outreach effort to generate new tour visitors from the academic community. On top of this, I fully participated and contributed to weekly meetings with the PR team and served as a regular studio tour guide. These activitiesallowed me to interact with a wide variety of people, including the VOA Director, the Peace Corps Director, government and organization leaders, and the hundreds of daily tour visitors to the building.

The chance to have this internship has opened my eyes to what I want my future to look like, both in the short term and long term. I understand now what a good internship is and what it feels like to be a part of a team and larger organization. The work that I completed here in the PR offices have been important and have made a genuine impact on Voice of America - something that not many interns can honestly say. I was encouraged to attend classes and events that could have only been discovered through VOA and I am truly thankful for all the opportunities made available to me through this internship.

With this experience under my belt, I know now that I wish to pursue the field of communications and public relations further, as well as expand into marketing, journalism, and working on broadcast television. I know that the connections and opportunities I’ve had here at Voice of America will allow me to excel in this pursuit to find similar work in which I am truly interested and can make a long lasting impact.

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