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The 5 C’s I learned as a VSFS intern for NOAA Education

My name is Molly Wozniak, and I am the 2019-2020 Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) intern for NOAA’s Office of Education. Since last September, I’ve been working with the office virtually from my dorm room at Lake Superior State University, and then later from home due to COVID-19. When I heard about this internship, I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to pursue because I could go to school full-time while still gaining this outstanding experience. I was nervous to start because I had never worked virtually before, but the team instantly made me feel comfortable.

Molly Wozniak stands in front of the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture while visiting the NOAA Office of Education in person in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 2020.
Molly Wozniak stands in front of the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture while visiting the NOAA Office of Education in person in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 2020. (Molly Wozniak)

I have had many amazing opportunities and experiences through this internship over the past nine months. This position was one of the greatest experiences I have had in my professional career, and I have summarized them to the “five C’s” I learned from this position. These “five C’s” will stay with me for a lifetime!


1. Connections

The NOAA Office of Education Communication and Outreach team snap a photo from Google hangouts with their virtual intern, Molly Wozniak. From left to right, top row: Bekkah Lampe, Kayla do Couto. From left to right, bottom row: Marissa Jones, Molly Wozniak.
The NOAA Office of Education Communication and Outreach team snap a photo from Google hangouts with their virtual intern, Molly Wozniak. From left to right, top row: Bekkah Lampe, Kayla do Couto. From left to right, bottom row: Marissa Jones, Molly Wozniak. (NOAA Office of Education)

NOAA Education is focused on making sure that everyone is always connected, and constant communication via email, chat, or video conference, is a major way to do this. Becoming comfortable with video chatting was especially important for me due to the nature of my position. Keeping in touch and staying connected, especially virtually, was an exceptional skill that I learned and value, since this is how most communication is taking place these days.


2. Cordiality

Molly Wozniak visited the NOAA Office of Education in person in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. on March 2-3, 2020.
Molly Wozniak visited the NOAA Office of Education in person in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. on March 2-3, 2020. ( Molly Wozniak)

Simply put, NOAA Education has the nicest employees. Being a virtual intern since September, I never expected to meet the people I was working with in person. However, I had the opportunity to visit NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. While visiting, I met so many wonderful people that work throughout NOAA who could not have been more helpful or courteous.

While I was at NOAA headquarters, I met with people from many different offices, positions, and levels of experience. These people were all so helpful in providing mentorship and guidance for me. Pursuing studies in a field that seems rather limited in job availability, it was enlightening to see the wide variety of opportunities that are offered throughout NOAA. It was a unique professional development opportunity to see how a government office works together both virtually and in person. I truly appreciated the trip, and it allowed us to have a greater working relationship.


3. Collaboration

Molly’s mentors for the NOAA Office of Education VSFS internship showed her around the NOAA offices in the Department of Commerce building in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 2020. Left to right: Bekkah Lampe, Marissa Jones, Molly Wozniak, and Kayla do Couto.
Molly’s mentors for the NOAA Office of Education VSFS internship showed her around the NOAA offices in the Department of Commerce building in Washington, D.C., on March 3, 2020. Left to right: Bekkah Lampe, Marissa Jones, Molly Wozniak, and Kayla do Couto. (Bekkah Lampe/NOAA Office of Education)

At NOAA Education, nothing is accomplished alone. The communication team works together constantly to make sure that the content they are creating and posting is 100% what they want it to be and reflects the high standards that they have. With each article written or graphic designed there is a team to review it and make sure it is ready to publish. This experience allowed me to realize the importance of teamwork and peer review in all projects.


4. Creativity

Printable sea turtle valentine created by NOAA Office of Education.
This is one of the Valentine’s Day cards Molly produced for the NOAA Office of Education’s social media. (NOAA Education)

Coming from a heavily quantitative science background, having the opportunity to work with graphic design was an enjoyable change of pace. I was given a lot of creative control on the projects I worked on, such as designing the annual Office of Education holiday cards, Valentine’s Day cards, and an upcoming trading card project. I never thought that graphic design would be something that I would find so much joy in doing, and I appreciated the opportunity to showcase my newfound skills!


5. Communication

At the Global Lakes Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) conference in Huntsville, Ontario, in November 2019, Molly presented about ongoing research projects at the Center for Freshwater Research and Education, located at her college, Lake Superior State University. This was Molly’s first professional poster presentation.
At the Global Lakes Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) conference in Huntsville, Ontario, in November 2019, Molly presented about ongoing research projects at the Center for Freshwater Research and Education, located at her college, Lake Superior State University. This was Molly’s first professional poster presentation. (Molly Wozniak)

I worked on many great projects during this internship and was fortunate enough to present some of my work to the NOAA Education Council, the Office of Education team, and the NOAA Education Web Advisory Committee. As an undergraduate student, presenting at this high of a level was an incredible experience. Becoming familiar with public speaking and professional communication in this way prepared me for in-person poster sessions and presentations at conferences that I attended this year.


Being able to work with NOAA Education as a virtual intern has been one of the most incredible experiences. With these “five C’s” in my pocket and people I can count on for guidance or advice, I know that I can be successful in my future endeavors. I highly recommend applying to the VSFS internship program (and especially working with NOAA Education!).

June 3, 2020