‘Elon will always be close to my heart,’ says retiring Nagatha Tonkins

The School of Communications internship director is set to retire on Dec. 13 concluding an 11-year tenure spent preparing Elon University students for professional work experiences.

After 11-plus years as the internship director for the School of Communications, helping shepherd hundreds of students and alumni through the internship process, Nagatha Tonkins is signing off on Friday, Dec. 13.

Nagatha Tonkins

The former television broadcast journalist turned educator has had a remarkable impact on the school, the university and Elon students during her tenure, explained Don Grady, associate dean of the School of Communications.

“She has interacted with virtually every student in the School of Communications,” Grady said. “Because all of our students are required to have an internship, she has worked with students not only leading up to their internships, but also she’s worked with them and their employers during their internships and she works with students after the internships.”

Importantly, at the time of Tonkins’ hiring in 2008, she was one of the early full-time internship directors, Grady noted.

Tonkins arrived on campus with plenty of higher education experience having spent 22 years at North Carolina A&T University, where she served her alma mater as the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications’ internship director and assistant professor. During her time in Greensboro, she developed numerous courses and programs, including the National Association of Black Journalists’ Student Broadcast Short Course.

In fact, the same year Tonkins was hired, she received NABJ’s Journalism Educator of the Year award, recalled Paul Parsons, professor of journalism and former dean of the School of Communications.

“Nagatha Tonkins has created an enormous awareness of the value of internships,” Parsons said. “She talks to our COM 100 classes. She has workshops for students. She’s out there spreading the word and the value of internships. I’ve been thrilled with how our internship program has grown both in quantity and, most importantly, quality.”

Since an internship experience is a requirement for all Elon communications majors, Tonkins has served countless students and alumni, helping secure internships with some of the communications industry’s biggest names: “60 Minutes,” Ketchum, ESPN and others. Her work includes facilitating almost 300 internships during an academic year; overseeing placements at media, public relations agencies, film companies and corporate settings around the world; and assessing students’ academic progress.

Grace McMeekin, a student worker in the internship office, said she has loved working with Tonkins during the fall semester.

“She definitely has our students’ best interests at heart and that shows through in everything she does,” McMeekin said.

In her final weeks on campus, Tonkins has continued to push the school forward, helping ease the transition of her replacement, Amber Moser, formerly the assistant director of career services for the School of Communications.

“Elon has been an amazing opportunity to help students with their internship experiences, learn new skills and knowledge, and to work with some of the most outstanding staff and faculty,” Tonkins said. “It has been a prodigious journey and I am extremely grateful for every moment and everyone who helped me to grow and manage the communications internship program. I look forward to reading more great stories about the innovation and growth of this university, as Elon will always be close to my heart.”

Tonkins began her professional career as a news reporter and morning TV anchor/producer for WGHP-TV in High Point, completing her master’s degree while continuing to work as a newscaster. She decided to leave the studio for the college classroom, explaining that the career change came after she realized the joy she experienced while working with students, particularly during their internships.