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Skaggs ’22 Interns with Alumni Agencies

Christina Skaggs smiling

Cadet Christina Skaggs, Class of 2022, completed an internship with the VMI Alumni Agencies communications team during the fall 2020 semester.—VMI Alumni Agencies photo by Micalyn Miller, creative content manager.

Cadet Christina Skaggs ’22 is participating in an internship with the VMI Alumni Agencies communications team during the fall 2020 semester. The cheerful, outgoing English major is completing the internship as part of the ERH 411 Fieldwork class, which brings cadets into partnership with organizations in the Rockbridge community and at VMI. The class is a requirement for English majors and can be fulfilled through a course, an independent study, or an internship.

Like everything else in 2020, the internship presented challenges. At VMI, many restrictions were in place to control the spread of COVID-19. For Skaggs, this meant she could not complete her internship in person at Moody Hall.

“It has been a challenge since COVID-19 didn’t let me have the typical internship experience,” Skaggs said. “I would have liked working in the office spaces with the rest of the Alumni Agencies staff and getting to experience a new work environment.”

Her two Alumni Agencies mentors found alternatives, meeting weekly in person outside—socially distanced on the Moody Hall balcony—and using Microsoft Teams video meetings. Thanks to current digital technology, Skaggs is able to hone her communications skills in many areas outside of a physical office. Using her own laptop, she is able to access design and photography programs. A member of the Bomb staff, she uses a yearbook camera for photography. Adapting to the circumstances—including listening to roommates taking Zoom classes—Skaggs’ barracks room became her office.

“I have loved working with the VMI Alumni Agencies this semester,” said Skaggs, who will commission in the Navy when she graduates. “I have learned so much from everyone at the Alumni Agencies, and [the internship] has reminded me I would like to pursue a career as a public affairs officer in the Navy one day.”

Working with Micalyn Miller, Alumni Agencies creative content manager, Skaggs learned more about photography. Under Miller’s gentle guidance, Skaggs delved into graphic design, learned about social media strategy, and created several social media posts during the internship. She came to the internship with photography, social media, and writing skills.

“Knowing that we could rely on Christina for photography needs and being able to lend some of our own skills to her education was really rewarding,” said Miller. “Christina was such an enthusiastic intern, and we look forward to seeing her continue to grow as a cadet.”

Skaggs learned about news writing and reporting, and writing for specific audiences from Molly Rolon, Alumni Agencies associate editor. Skaggs wrote articles about how the Corps continued operations during COVID-19, legacy cadets, and cadet academic projects. An accomplished photographer, Skaggs took photos to accompany her articles.

“Christina was a lot of fun to work with,” Rolon said. “She’s a creative, outgoing person and never said ‘no’ to anything I proposed. She’s really been a bright spot this fall.”

On the academic side, Maj. Michelle Iten, Ph.D., serves as Skaggs’ advisor. The two conducted weekly phone calls rather than meeting in person. Iten coordinated with Rolon in writing the syllabus. Throughout the semester, Rolon provided news articles and social media posts from various sources. Skaggs analyzed this content in written form, using the rhetorical framework Iten teaches.

“Christina has excellent insights into how different forms of news reporting work to convey information and messages,” Iten said. “She is making the direct match between academic and real-world knowledge that VMI internships seek to provide.”

The internship is beneficial to everyone involved. Alumni Agencies personnel hear about cadet life first-hand. Interns learn valuable communications skills and how much the VMI family cares about and supports the Corps. And the audience—alumni and the greater VMI family—also get some insight into cadet life.

When the pandemic curtailed in-person learning in March 2020, spring intern Cadet Emma Flora ’22 continued writing and working on her internship. Flora discovered and wrote the story about her brother rat, Cadet William Taylor ’22, who completed his spring courses in tent. The story was picked up by almost every major news outlet in the country.

Another former intern, T.J. Lighton ’15, now works at the Alumni Agencies. He began working with chapters in the Alumni Association and now coordinates reunion giving.

“As a scholarship athlete, I knew a little bit about the Agencies,” Lighton, a former Keydet pitcher, said. “The internship was eye-opening. I learned about the behind-the-scenes effort that went into gathering private support.”

In coordination with Maj. Stephanie Hodde, Ph.D., the Alumni Agencies communications team interviews intern candidates each semester. The internship is open to English majors as part of the ERH 411 Fieldwork class.

  • Molly Rolon

    Molly Rolon Editorial Specialist