A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

START fosters a collaborative, multidisciplinary environment to create a team to meet the needs of the homeland security enterprise and train the next generation of scholars and practitioners. 

Risk Communication and Resilience Internship

Risk Communication and Resilience Internship

April 4, 2017
Semester Year: 


Government, non-profits, and other organizations rely on public communication to deliver important messages to various audiences. Professional communicators today use social scientific research to improve this process and START’s research teams have several current and upcoming communication projects that address current research questions. One research area that START specializes in is risk communication which includes threat assessment, information delivery and exchange, resource allocation and community resilience. Risk communication is important for delivering messages about impending storms, terrorist attacks, public health crises, and more.

START’s risk communication and community resilience team seeks three to five interns to support several ongoing research projects as well as new projects that may be funded moving forward. Interns will have the opportunity to work on at least one of the following ongoing projects as well as support grant proposal writing:

Supervisor: Holly Roberts (hroberts@umd.edu)

Deadline: Tuesday, April 4, 2017; 11:59pm

Citizenship Requirement: US Citizenship is not required.

Team Meeting Times: TBD

Work Location: START HQ located at 8400 Baltimore Ave., College Park, MD 20740. All internship hours must be completed at START HQ, unless otherwise specified. Working remotely is not permitted.


Internship Description:

Project 1: Training in Risk and Crisis Communication

The Training in Risk and Crisis Communication (TRACC) project aims to develop, deliver and evaluate an educational program on effective risk communication to local, state and federal leaders in the United States. In June 2013, the TRACC team delivered its first pilot training program to communication practitioners. In May 2014, TRACC received FEMA accreditation. The team is now moving toward adding more research to the program and planning future training sessions. Interns will support future iterations of the training by facilitating the delivery of training to government agencies, conducting original research on risk and crisis communication cases, generating media or promotional materials for TRACC, and other assignments as needed.


Project 2: Quantifying Disaster Resilience: Interdependent Systems

A crisis rarely creates disruption in isolation. In fact, many critical community infrastructure systems are dependent on one another. This project considers public policy, organizational policy, emergent organizational behaviors, and risk communication into a broader quantitative assessment of disaster resilience under multiple hazard types. The interdisciplinary research team will map out these usually hard to see system dependencies, which will help first responders and government prepare for cascading crisis effects. The team will create a modeling system that illustrates interdependent systems and engage in community outreach to strengthen community resilience from the ground up. Interns will assist with conducting research to support the resilience model and/or scheduled outreach events including work focusing on disaster preparedness for the Girl Scouts’ Emergency Preparedness Patch Program. The program focuses on networking with responding agencies, community outreach, and encouraging skill development. Interns may also assist with interview data from hospital staff regarding communication needs during a crisis.


Project 3: Complacency and False Alarms in Tornado Affected Communities

The purpose of this project is to: 1) Determine the extent to which false alarms have impacted Southeastern U.S. communities in relation to tornado awareness, 2) evaluate the manner in which Southeastern U.S. communities are receiving tornado warnings, 3) determine a general level of complacency among communities in the Southeastern U.S. with varying lengths of time since a severe weather event, and 4) determine if the magnitude of previously experienced severe weather events impacts the overall level of complacency of individuals in communities throughout the Southeastern U.S. This project will investigate the above objectives through a theoretical framework consisting of focus groups and a national survey. Interns will help analyze data and transition findings into academic articles and reports to be submitted to funders.


Project 4: Explosive Detection Technology Adoption

Empowering publics to take an active role in the fight against terror and domestic threats is embedded in American culture. From programs like “see something, say something,” to tip-hotlines, and even to the unplanned and heroic actions of citizens intervening to stop violence and terrorism, publics have demonstrated an interest to help various agencies perform protective actions. These examples rely heavily on active participation from various individuals who make conscious decisions to contribute to the public good. However, this project also seeks to better understand how passive participation in these types of programs may be utilized. Interns will contribute to this project by assisting with data collection, analysis, and report creation.

*Please note: It is highly likely that additional Risk Communication and Resilience projects will be offered in addition to those mentioned above during the summer of 2017.

If possible, START makes every effort to allow interns to work on projects that are most of interest to them. 

Duties of the interns will include:

  • Assisting with primary research including interviews, focus groups, and other quantitative analyses
  • Contributing to written project reports, proposals, and deliverables for government agencies
  • Developing short and longer manuscripts for publication in various outlets
  • Program promotion and media outreach


  • A record of academic achievement including excellent writing skills and attention to detail
  • Ability to work independently
  • ­Applicants must have a minimum of 60 university credits
  • Ability to work at START headquarters at the University of Maryland
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite

Other Suggested Skills:

  • Familiarity with communication, specifically risk and crisis communication
  • A strong interest in research (completed coursework in research methods)
  • Other computer/ technical skills: Adobe Creative Suite, SPSS (or similar statistical packages), qualitative analytic software, or social media monitoring software

START risk communication and resilience interns will gain valuable experience in applied communication writing, social science research and proposal seeking and writing. These tasks can be applied to a variety of careers in fields such as: strategic communication/public relations, public affairs, nonprofit communication, higher education and more broadly in the homeland security enterprise.

*Graduate students and upper-level undergraduates are encouraged to apply*

General information for all START Spring 2017 Internships

Schedule Requirements:

  • Orientation Date: Thursday, June 1, 2017 and Friday, June 2, 2017. All interns are required to attend orientation.
  • Internship Duration: Monday, June 5, 2017 to Friday, August 11, 2017. All interns must be able to commit to the duration of the whole program.
  • Work Hours: All interns must work at least 20 hours per week during the Summer 2017 program. Work hours are scheduled from Monday to Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm. Interns may not work longer than 8 hour shifts.

Other Information:

  • All internships are UNPAID and START is unable to provide travel stipends or housing arrangements.
  • We strongly encourage and recommend that interns seek academic credit for their internship through their home institution or department, if possible.
  • If undertaking the internship for credit, you must indicate this in your application form. Be sure to notify your internship supervisor if you need to work more than 20 hours per work for this reason.
  • Applicants interested in applying for an internship for any semester other than or in addition to Summer 2017, must submit a separate application for each semester with the correct application form for that semester.

How to Apply for START Internships:

START is currently accepting applications for Summer 2017. The application form will be open until Monday, April 3, 2017 11:59pm. Late, incomplete, or applications not submitted correctly will not be considered.To access the application: click here.


  • Applicants must pay close attention to the requirements of each internship they are applying for, including attendance to team meetings and minimum time commitment. Inability to attend compulsory meetings or work the minimum required hours will result in the revocation of any offer made.
  • Address your cover letter to the internship supervisor of your first choice.
  • Failure to complete the application form in full, including the selection of 1-3 internship preferences could result in your application being rejected without further consideration.
  •  Failure to submit the proper materials according to the directions provided in the project description could result in your application being rejected without further consideration.
  • Due to the high volume of applicants, only top candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.
  • Applicants may be asked to attend more than one interview.
  • Any successful candidate will be asked to respond with a firm acceptance within 24 hours of the offer being made. Failure to respond could result in the vacancy passed to another candidate.
  • Any questions regarding the specific requirements for the internship vacancy should be directed to the supervisor(s) listed for the project.
  • Any questions regarding the application process should be directed to the START Education Team at internships-start@umd.edu.

Application Materials:

All internship applicants must submit all materials in one .pdf or .doc file using the file name format:

LastName, FirstName_InternCandidate.pdf or .doc.

 The internship application packet should include:

  • Official or unofficial transcript(s)
  • One page resume
  • One page cover letter
  • Two-page writing sample (Communications applicants must submit two writing samples

Note for International Students:

START welcomes applications from international students for all of our internships where US citizenship is not a requirement (see the qualifications listed for each project for details).

It is, however, the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that their visa or immigration status permits them to undertake an unpaid internship. It is also the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all proper paperwork, like documented approval from your home institution, is available and processed in time for the start of the internship. Failure to comply with these stipulations, or provide the paperwork required to verify your status, will result in your internship offer being rescinded without further consideration.

 All international applicants (including F1 (but not OPT F1 visa holders) and J1 visa candidates) must apply by the deadline. In order to help ensure there is enough time to process the appropriate paperwork. If you are an international applicant please ensure you indicate your visa type as requested on the application.