A photo of a woman standing in front of the Byrd Theater with her left hand on her hip.
Breyana Stewart has managed a variety of duties as an intern with the Richmond International Film Festival, which starts Sept. 26. (Kevin Morley, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

At Richmond film festival and local PR firm, VCU mass communications major makes the most of summer

VCU’s Internship Funding Program is helping rising senior Breyana Stewart explore professional career paths.

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Breyana Stewart, a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, is spending the summer interning at a Richmond public relations firm and at the Richmond International Film Festival.

A grant from VCU’s Internship Funding Program is helping her seize the opportunities and gain professional experience in her field.

As a mass communications major with an emphasis on public relations in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, Stewart wanted to experience the profession firsthand. In January, she saw a posting for an internship at the film festival and earned the spot.

As part of a small team at the film festival, which is one of the largest international competitive film festivals in the Mid-Atlantic and runs this year between Sept. 26 and Oct. 1, Stewart has worked on community outreach and helped forge partnerships with local organizations. She has also written and edited a monthly newsletter and press releases for the festival.

“It’s a lot of communications tasks but also a lot of administration,” Stewart said.

With the film festival internship secured early in the year, Stewart began thinking about further plans for the summer.

She works part time at a doctor’s office, but she also wanted to explore other opportunities in public relations. While browsing funding sources through VCU’s website, Stewart saw the Internship Funding Program, which offers scholarships that help students defray the expenses associated with summer internships. She applied and was awarded $4,000.

The grant gave her more flexibility to explore summer opportunities, and she landed a second internship at The Hodges Partnership, a Richmond public relations agency. Stewart is writing blog posts and pitching stories to media outlets, as well as writing for an online publication.

“I get to tap into my journalism side and interview nonprofit organizations in Virginia to help spread the word about them to the community,” Stewart said.

The Internship Funding Program grant allowed Stewart to cut back her hours at the doctor’s office over the summer. The internship at the film festival is unpaid, and she receives a small stipend from Hodges. But the value of the experience is far greater than dollars and cents.

“While the internship at RIFF is unpaid, the bonds and relationships that I have formed from it are amazing,” Stewart said. “It is completely worth it.”

Her summer work has made her reflect about career directions. She had thought about working in entertainment public relations and gained exposure through the film festival. But the work at Hodges has revealed the possibility of a more traditional path in communications.

“Originally I had big city dreams of moving to California. I have family that lives there. I thought I would move there and start my career in entertainment PR,” Stewart said. “Since interning with Hodges, I started to find the beauty in Richmond. I have really started to love it here and love being part of the communications world here.”

Stewart’s internship with Hodges ends this month, and she will have to dial back her time at the film festival as the school year begins. But she will be heavily involved when the festival kicks off in late September, and she appreciates how her summer – and her VCU experience overall – have set her up for success.

“I am super-grateful to VCU,” Stewart said. “Richmond and VCU have offered me so many opportunities that I don’t think I would have gotten any other place.”