Internship Spotlight: University News Services

by Caroline Jones 

Are you looking for an internship or another way to gain more writing experience? If so, the University News Services internship is the perfect opportunity to get a solid start to a career in public relations.

The University News Services (UNS) office is located at 300 Plaza Centre One in downtown Iowa City. The internship lasts one semester, or you may work there during the summer months if you will be living in Iowa City.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to: interviewing media contacts and writing press releases and news stories for various University publications, identifying relevant University of Iowa stories and pitching them to local, regional, national and international media outlets, archiving news stories and assisting in various administrative tasks.

As a student you may be thinking, “What’s in it for me?” Or “How will I benefit from this experience?”

“From the UNS internship, I was able to hone my AP and press release writing expertise–two basic but essential skills for a PR professional,” said Jennifer Ferm, former PRSSA president and recent UI graduate.

By the end of the semester your portfolio will be full with writing samples you will be proud to submit to an employer.

“During my Golin Harris internship, my account team really trusted my writing skills and therefore gave me assignments above the intern level writing materials on behalf of the client,” said Ferm. “I cannot say definitively if Golin Harris would’ve hired me without my strong proficiency in writing that I perfected at UNS. I’m forever grateful for the experience.”

On top of that, the staff members at the University News Services office are friendly and willing to help you in any way possible.

Lois Gray, the assistant director/editor for UNS, is quite possibly the kindest woman you could ever work for. No matter how busy her day is, she is never too busy to listen or help you with anything you need.

“Once I met Lois and started my internship at UNS, I was much more productive under someone who was so genuine, helpful and upbeat,” said Gloria Hurtado, PRSSA vice president after her internship in spring 2008. “As an intern, it’s easy to feel intimidated taking on tasks that require skills still under development, but she took the time to help with every step of the process. I’m greatly appreciative of her mentorship.”

Gray assists with writing and editing news releases and the entire UI News Digest, provides media support to the UI College of Education, International Programs as well as to a number of other areas on campus, including Women’s Resource and Action Center, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, Honors Program, Registrar’s Office, UI Center for Human Rights and much more. She updates news headlines on the UI Homepage, serves as managing editor for the UNS web site and is the assistant editor for UI faculty and staff newsletter, fyi. Aside from that, she oversees the internship program and recently coordinated the video production internship.

A native of New Hampton, IA, Gray received her bachelor of arts in journalism from Grand View College in Des Moines and obtained her master’s degree in journalism from the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After a decade of working in daily and weekly journalism, she realized she wanted to work in higher education media relations, combining her experience from studying abroad and her love for higher education.

“Some of the best moments in my current position with University News Services, University Relations, is when we know we’ve helped educate the public about really significant research or when we’ve really made a difference in people’s lives through an outreach event or big news,” said Gray.

“A recent example was during the Flood of 2008, we were able to work with this natural disaster and help educate people on campus as well as work with members of the media – locally, regionally and nationally – as well as alumni, friends, students, faculty and staff and members of the general public – through a Flood Blog, press conferences, press releases and other communications vehicles. It was an opportunity to show the resilience of our campus and how teaching, research and service continue despite the obstacles.”

The experiences of an internship with UNS will vary from each semester.

As we have mentioned before, you never know when a crisis will hit.  As an employee of any organization, you must be prepared to face new challenges and demonstrate your willingness to accept more responsibility.

PRSSA Public Relations Director Aly Dolan provides a first-hand account of crisis communication.

“When the flood hit, my boss’ had their hands full with crisis communication,” said Dolan after interning with UNS last summer. “Fortunately, a lot of press releases and stories that were originally assigned to higher positions were passed along to me. It definitely improved my writing.”

Perhaps most importantly, PRSSA has built a positive relationship with the University News Services office, one that will be your responsibility to uphold and build upon in the future. As a member of PRSSA, you already have an advantage when applying for this position. UNS has been an invaluable resource to our chapter and we hope to continue to send our talented members to work there.