IST intern conducts analytical research, informs public for U.S. Air Force

Hope Damato
September 02, 2021

(Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of stories highlighting College of Information Sciences and Technology students and their summer internships.)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At the College of Information Sciences and Technology, students in the security and risk analysis (SRA) program have the opportunity to become part of a highly trained analytical workforce that can address the security and risk challenges that face individuals, organizations and the nation. Many students and graduates apply the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they gain at the college in internships and careers in the military and government agencies, helping to evaluate and manage threats and contributing to making the world a safer place.

Given the security around many of these organizations, SRA students and graduates often can't share much about the work they do. But for senior Alexia Calnon, informing the public about the work of her organization is literally her job.

Calnon is putting her analytical skills to work in a unique internship position with the U.S. Air Force, helping to provide the public with information about the organization. This summer, she worked with the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., exploring the different divisions of public affairs. Ultimately, her focus landed in the strategic assessments division (PAX), where she helped conduct analytical research on public affairs matters for the Air Force and participated in public engagement programs.

“The biggest task I worked on was coordinating the Space Force Day at a Washington Nationals game and helped to design flyers and other documents for public use,” she said.

At Penn State, she is a member of the Air Force ROTC and learned about the internship opportunity through the organization Silver Wings. In the AFROTC, she was also a flight commander and executive officer at Penn State Detachment 720. Those experiences have helped her to succeed in her internship.

“I work well in this environment because I have a strong work ethic, especially in ROTC, and have shown an interest in using my analytical skills learned in my classes towards the public affairs effort,” she said.

With an analytical background, Calnon hopes to bring a new skill to public affairs. In PAX, there are individuals from many different career fields all working toward one mission. Because Calnon comes from a background that isn't public affairs, she brings a new perspective to the field and can use her way of thinking to help broaden the work.

“The College of IST allows students to think outside of the box and use their own skills to come to conclusions, making it a very challenging yet rewarding college.”

— Alexia Calnon, class of 2022

“IST is not necessarily black and white; it can be very grey,” she said. “The College of IST allows students to think outside of the box and use their own skills to come to conclusions, making it a very challenging yet rewarding college.”

Calnon’s combined experiences in the classroom, with ROTC and in her internship have made her a well-rounded cadet, and her work with the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs will further enhance her leadership abilities.

“This is a huge learning opportunity for me to experience something that few people in the nation get to experience,” she said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to be working alongside such skilled military and civilian employees who have years of experience in the field.”

After graduation, Calnon will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. Although she is unsure of what will come after that, she says working at the Pentagon gave her great exposure to careers and officers to talk to while exploring her possibilities.

“In the ROTC realm of things, this internship will help put me a step ahead of my peers,” she said.  “I’m in an environment surrounded by so many skilled officers and the connections that are available throughout the building are endless.”

Last Updated September 15, 2021