CRP Summer Internships: From Mexico to Cleveland
"My internship with the Thriving Communities Institute gave me an opportunity to interact with municipal and nonprofit organizations that are all committed to a successful rejuvenation of the city," says Isaac Robb (M.R.P. '15).
Robb was one of 35 students to participate in the M.R.P./M.A. Cooperative Internship Program during the summer of 2015. Arranged with assistance from AAP Connect, the internship program provides CRP students with an opportunity to gain valuable professional experience while working in their specific field of interest. This year's internships included placements across the country and around the globe.
The Thriving Communities Institute, Robb's host organization, is part of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in Cleveland, a group focused on turning vacant and unproductive properties into new opportunities to attract economic growth, bringing green space to the city, and supporting safe and attractive neighborhoods. Robb's internship focused on providing support for the City of Cleveland Property Survey project, which began in spring 2015. He also worked on a statewide research project that attempted to quantify the number of vacant and distressed properties throughout Ohio — results from that project will be used to work with the state legislature to obtain additional funding for housing rehabilitation and demolition.
Chiapas, Mexico, was the placement site for three students: Alia Fierro (M.R.P. '16), Maria Jeldes (M.R.P. '16), and Melissa Strelec (M.R.P. '16). The trio worked for Foro Para el Desarrollo Sustentable (Forum for Sustainable Development), an organization that has been collaborating with the United Nations Development Program since 2005 in response to Hurricane Stan, with the goal of helping disadvantaged communities prepare for and weather future natural disasters.
"Being in Mexico was an extraordinary opportunity for me to learn not only about the organization's projects — which I feel have broadened my horizons in international planning — but also about the larger social context in Chiapas and Mexico," says Jeldes. "Issues like forced displacement and land grabbing have become more common in the region . . . so it's essential for groups like Foro to be involved to help reduce vulnerabilities in households and communities in the long term."
Annie Pease (M.R.P. '16) spent her summer at Good Jobs First in Washington, DC. She worked closely with a team of researchers to update the subsidy tracker database, a resource for grassroots organizers, community organizations, and politicians looking for clear information on how much money corporations receive through economic development incentives. Pease partnered with the researcher covering subsidies in the southeast and blogged about current events in Oklahoma and Georgia.
"My internship led me to better understand economic development and the complex relationship between politics, planning, incentive research, and the private sector," says Pease. She also helped collect data for a project comparing the number of subsidies allocated to local versus non-local businesses.
The summer internships can also lead to career opportunities for students. Robb's internship led to his first postgraduation placement — in September, he began a one-year fellowship with his summer host organization, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.
"Cleveland has a rich legacy of community-based planning, and is currently facing serious problems of poverty, racial segregation, and housing vacancy after losing a great deal of its peak population," says Robb. "This is a perfect environment to begin my career, while learning from professionals that are making serious improvements to the city they care so much about."
By Rebecca Bowes