Miya Stepanovic hones communication skills through internship with COVID-19 Regional Response Team

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Miya Stepanovic

Miya Stepanovic is part of the PPE Strike Team, where she researches educational videos and creates flyers to distribute with PPE in order to raise public awareness and reduce the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Like many students, Miya Stepanovic knows that real-world experience is the key to standing out from other applicants in her field during a job search. That’s why she hoped to add an internship to her resume.

It didn’t take her long to land one, but cuts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic left her with a rescinded offer.

That’s when the University of Missouri–St. Louis communication major came across a new opportunity while browsing the Department of Communication and Media’s Canvas site: an internship with the St. Louis COVID-19 Regional Response Team.

Although Stepanovic was born in China, she has lived in St. Louis since she was less than a year old. The opportunity to give back by supporting those in her community appealed to her as much as gaining experience in her field.

She responded to the posting right away.

“I emailed the person in charge and asked her for more information about what the internship would be like and about how to apply,” she said. “I sent a basic resume, and I sent a cover letter. She hadn’t asked for that, but I guessed it would be important. I sent a few essays I’ve written to give her a good idea of my writing style. She emailed me back within a few days and said I was on the team.”

Stepanovic’s team, called the PPE Strike Team, works to raise public awareness about types of personal protective equipment and ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

It’s a small part of the Regional Response Team’s mission to meet the needs of St. Louis residents during the pandemic. The group brings together a wide range of organizations to identify the needs of vulnerable populations, share effective solutions between providers, deploy critical resources and highlight needs and opportunities.

Stepanovic primarily focuses on finding reliable, educational videos about topics related to COVID-19. She’s also creating handouts and flyers to distribute with PPE in order to provide users with information about how to use it.

“We’re trying to spread awareness, specifically toward the greater St. Louis area, about what a virus is and what the coronavirus is,” she said. “With vaccines coming up, we’re going to try to do a lot so they seem less scary for people.”

This internship is Stepanovic’s first, and she’s hoping it will help her determine what path to take within the communication field. Although she’s passionate about her communication major and psychology minor, she has not yet selected an emphasis. Fortunately, her degree offers a wide range of options.

She initially planned to major in computer science when she transferred to UMSL after earning an associate degree from St. Louis Community College–Meramec.

“I’d originally been interested in cybersecurity,” she said. “But I was looking at the degree programs, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is something I’m actually interested in.’ I ended up choosing communication because that interested me more.”

Most of the courses she’s taken have been core classes, and she’s discovered she enjoys interpersonal communication courses.

She chose UMSL primarily because of its affordability and flexibility for commuter students.

“Even before the whole COVID thing, I did half and half online and in person,” she said. “I live kind of far away, so I don’t want to have to spend a lot of time driving. But everyone on campus is really nice.”

In the future, Stepanovic hopes to enjoy a stable job in the communication field, and this internship provides the first step toward that goal.

“Mostly I’m hoping to learn what it’s like to have a ‘real’ job,” she said. “I like being able to see what real work experience looks like – working in teams with actual professionals.”

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