This post was written by current student Jennifer Taylor-Monteagudo.
As a City of Richmond Mayor’s Fellow, I have had the opportunity to learn the how many of the UNC MPA courses correlate in a government entity. My internship in the Treasurer’s Office, an elected official, has enhanced my connection to various stakeholders. The unique opportunity has allowed me to work with city residents on the phone, in person, and via social media platforms. The ability to work with elected officials, residents, and city public servants has made knowledge of the organizational structure and effective communication key skills to successfully working with stakeholders at multiple levels within the city.
During the internship I have been afforded the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and efforts by the Treasurer’s Office including the Office of Financial Empowerment and Financial Wellness Wednesday. I have also had exposure to internal processes and how various departments interact to provide select services to residents of Richmond. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests process was of particular interest as governments in general are not known for efficient use of time and these requests are time sensitive. Understanding how the departments work together to obtain requested documents and remain in compliance with the required timeframe for a response has been a valuable lesson on developing and maintaining positive work relationships.
The primary focus of my internship is on assisting with the Office of Financial Empowerment through the Office of the City Treasurer. The Office of Financial Empowerment has a mission to “inspire, encourage, and pursue the high possibilities of potential in others through elimination of financial barriers by “Making Options and Resources Easily Accessible” for all. The office does this by incorporating financial coaching services, providing and promoting financial literacy throughout the city, and partnering with City Agencies to improve service to city residents facing poverty and COVID-19 related financial distress. This aspect of my internship has provided me with exposure on the intricacies of developing an idea to an action within the confines of the government. Aligning the needs of the community with the resources allocated to the department. I have been fortunate to see the partnering of multiple departments that have shared interests in the financial status of residents, combine their separate resources to make a larger impact to better the community.
I was able to contribute towards the creation of financial tools that assist residents in learning to create and execute a budget. In addition I am able to create graphics that are aesthetically appealing to the public but also provide information and resources on how to become more financially empowered. These graphics are posted on social media regularly allowing an element of creativity while maintaining a consciousness of targeted audience. I was also able to use my teaching background to support the brainstorming on how to present and teach financial literacy to city residents. This opportunity allowed for my expertise to bring value and make the development thoughtful to the variety of adult learning styles within the city of Richmond.
So far in this internship experience as a City of Richmond Mayor’s Fellow, I have learned the importance of leadership and how it impacts outcomes for city employees and residents. As I progress through this fellowship, relationships has been a reoccurring theme. The building and development of strong relationships with all City Of Richmond stakeholders has been integral in the success of programs across multiple departments. Understanding the organizational structure and respecting that structure is important in acknowledging and building relationships and getting things accomplished. I am excited to continue to acquire knowledge and connections between the UNC MPA program and the reality of local public service.
Current UNC MPA student Elisabeth Butler writes about her summer work experience with Race for Equity. You can read her first blog post here.
While conducting my Professional Work Experience (PWE) at RACE for Equity, I was recently introduced to a tool developed by RACE for Equity called the Community Engagement Continuum (CEC). The CEC outlines a process for engaging community members in an equitable manner. The CEC focuses on engagement from a racially aware vantage point, and it incorporates aspects of Results-Based Accountability (RBA) and the Groundwater Approach into its methodology. My task in relation to the CEC is to take the lengthy 44-page document explaining the CEC and boil it down to two pages. The two pages will serve as a more easily understandable and accessible handout for clients or partners who are interested in learning about the CEC.
I find the CEC interesting because I feel that it is trying to shed light on a question a lot of organizations are currently grappling with. How do you engage community members in an equitable manner? For decades, experts and those with resources and power have dictated the course and flow of development, but now there are many who have decided including those who are impacted but such decisions have knowledge and perspectives that should be included in the decision-making process. This idea of giving community members a voice seems easy in theory, but it has proved to be challenging to put into practice. One of my supervisors even noted that most clients who are interested in the CEC are only in the initial stages of the process, few organizations actually are or have made it to the later stages. Even though community engagement is easier in theory than practice, I look forward to seeing how organizations overcome current challenges in creating sustainable and equitable community engagement processes.
In addition to discussing the CEC, I also wanted to bring up my experience of working for a completely remote company. Before I accepted the PWE position with RACE for Equity, I thought a completely remote job was ideal. A remote job would allow you to work from any location and is more flexible in work hours in comparison to a typical 9-to-5 job. This is not a critique of RACE for Equity, but, instead, my own realization that in the future I would prefer an in-person or hybrid job. I enjoy the flexibility offered by RACE for Equity in terms of work hours and location, but I feel a completely remote experience hinders some of the comradery and bonding that occurs in in-person jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy working from the comforts of my home, but it would be nice to see my coworkers in-person now and then. It would be nice to know you at least have the opportunity to stop by your coworker’s office or cubicle to socialize or bug then about an email you had sent earlier in the week. As I search for a job in the future, I will keep this realization of mine in mind.
Overall, I have enjoyed my experience with RACE for Equity so far. RACE for Equity has been very mindful about giving me enough work to meet the MPA hour requirement, and I have been introduced to new concepts that I have found interesting. This PWE experience has zoomed by, but I look forward to finishing up my PWE over the next couple of weeks and taking what I have learned from this experience to future jobs.
This post was written by current student Ben Lasley.
For those of you who may not know me, my name is Ben Lasley and I just finished my first year of the MPA Program. I am from Summerfield, N.C., and I graduated from UNC in 2019, majoring in Environmental Studies and Political Science. After graduation, I was a community organizer in Philadelphia and witnessed the strained relationship between neighborhoods, nonprofits, and governments. This struggle over food sovereignty and environmental justice prompted my return to UNC’s MPA program.
After a rigorous first year, I am excited to witness and implement classroom concepts, while also taking a breather from readings. And with that, it is now time for my professional work experience.
My job will be as a Policy Analysis and Communications Intern with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Office of Air Quality and Planning Standards (OAQPS) in the Research Triangle Park. I found this opportunity on USA Jobs, and the MPA program advertised it as well! I’ve long envisioned working on environmental policy at the federal level, and this pathways internship opens the door to participating in the regulatory process. Here are a few pictures of the campus!
I will be responsible for:
1) Program evaluation of teacher environmental education workshops
2) Communication and community outreach plans for proposed regulatory actions
3) Internal OAQPS newsletters highlighting intern experiences
4)Observing and briefing congressional hearings
My first week has been off to a great start. Upon arriving, my badge was already incorrect, but a new order would be delivered in two weeks. A photo of my desk can be seen below. Thus far I have spent my time learning the ins and the outs of the OAQPS division, as well as swimming through federal onboarding videos. My first project will be assisting community outreach on a proposed ethylene oxide rule.
And the rest of the week I have the opportunity to network across the EPA and explore the RTP campus (where I can have unlimited free coffee). Thanks for joining me, and I look forward to updating you more next week!