Reflecting on a Summer of Planning

This summer, Carolina Planning Master’s students participated in a range of in-person and remote opportunities across the country. This week, we are sharing highlights and reflections from eight students.

Sam Stites – MCRP 2022, Economic Development
Labor Organizing Fellow, NC Raise UP/Fight for $15 (Brevard, NC)

Labor rights are central to promoting the sustainability, health, and well-being of our communities and the broader economy, yet are often overlooked in economic development by actors who hold power. This is perhaps most true in North Carolina, recently designated as the worst state for worker protections, wages, and the right to organize unions using metrics gathered by Oxfam. In seeking to learn more about the challenges faced by labor at large and locally, I was grateful to join NC Raise Up as a Fellow in their 2021 Organizing Academy based in Western North Carolina. The North Carolina arm of the national ‘Fight for $15,’ NC Raise Up provided fellows with the training and education to organize fast food and grocery store workers through direct engagement. Through this work, I spoke with dozens of workers for whom wage theft, harassment, and unsafe work conditions are the rule, not the exception. I also had the opportunity to work with dozens of seasoned labor organizers and organizations, who inspired me to wear movement work on my front sleeve. Ultimately, we documented unfair labor practices, mobilized entire workplaces, delivered strike notices, and cultivated solidarity. I left proud, focused, and equipped to address labor in school and beyond.

Henry Read – MCRP 2022, Land Use & Environmental Planning
Planning Intern, Piedmont Triad Regional Council (Kernersville, NC)

My time at the Piedmont Triad Regional Council gave me the opportunity to experience a wide range of planning work. Nearly every week provided a new challenge, from rewriting small towns’ zoning codes to comply with new state standards to mapping the amenities available at regional blueways’ access points, to assembling an ADA inspection best practices guide and kit bag for PTRC to use after I returned to school. The team at PTRC was very gracious in providing support and advice, but also gave me free rein to pick my assignments and tackle them as I saw fit. I even got to speak to town councils and at public events as an official representative of the Council of Government, which was an intimidating and gratifying privilege. It feels great to know I made a lasting contribution to many Peidmont communities through my efforts. And I am definitely going to get a lot of use out of the new Legacy Trails blueway map!

Lauren Prunkl – MCRP 2022, Transportation
Transportation Planning Intern, Kittelson & Associates (Virtual)

During my summer internship at Kittelson & Associates, I enjoyed jumping in on several different projects. One that has stood out was a corridor study in and around Tampa, FL. Last semester, I completed a semester-long corridor study project with a classmate for school regarding a road connecting Durham and Chapel Hill, NC. It was great to be involved throughout the summer with the Tampa project and see how these types of projects take shape in practice. I didn’t expect to learn so much about the Florida Department of Transportation’s (DOT) policies and processes for implementation such as Context Classification and Complete Streets. I had the opportunity to assist with the Context Classification process for the existing conditions phase of the corridor study project as well as see how Complete Streets can be implemented through the Resurfacing, Restoration, and Rehabilitation (RRR) process for example. I learned a ton about transportation consulting which gave me new perspectives regarding the relationship between consultants and DOTs since I had previously interned in the local non-profit and government spaces which operate quite differently.

Pierce Holloway – MCRP 2022, Land Use & Environmental Planning
Team Lead, NASA Develop (Virtual)

This past summer, I had the awesome opportunity to serve as a Team Lead for a group of 4 analysts investigating Urban Heat Island (UHI) impacts in Fairfax County, Virginia. My position had me responsible for delegating tasks within the team as well as running communication between partners, analysts, and science advisors. We used remote sensing data to compute land surface temperature, albedo, canopy cover, and land use which was fed into the INVEST Urban cooling model to determine heat mitigation index values for the entire county. We also investigated socio-demographic data for local populations to determine where vulnerable populations are located in relation to areas experiencing the worst UHI impacts.

Josephine Justin – MCRP 2023, Land Use & Environmental Planning
Fellow, Climate Action Corps/City of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)

I spent this summer in Los Angeles as a California Climate Corps Fellow working with the City of LA’s new Climate Emergency Mobilization Office (CEMO). As a fellow, I worked with the director of the office to ensure that City climate policies are built on equity and justice and avoid unintended consequences. Additionally, we worked to facilitate the voices of the Community Assemblies and the Climate Emergency Commission and to innovate governance strategies to ensure communities and equitable solutions are at the heart of the City’s climate strategy. Finally, we coordinated and collaborated with City leaders to achieve the goals of LA’s Green New Deal.

Katie Burket – MCRP 2022, Housing & Community Development
Planning Intern, Charlotte Planning, Design & Development (Virtual)

This summer I started an internship with Charlotte Planning, Design, & Development and will continue to work with them throughout the academic year. I am working with the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) team, and they are just about to release a draft of their new UDO for public comment so the department has been busy and moving quickly. Many of my tasks so far have been with the community engagement team trying to think through the planning of community events to communicate about the UDO. It has been a great experience so far and I’ve learned a lot about the processes involved in local government planning. I believe this internship is offered every year, and I would highly recommend it to any planning students looking to get some general planning experience!

Emma Vinella-Brusher – MCRP/MPH 2023, Transportation/Health Behavior
Low Income Fare Pilot Intern, District Department of Transportation/The Lab @ DC (Virtual)

As part of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) internship program, I was placed with The Lab @ DC, a data science/social science/civic design team within the Mayor’s Office. I was the only staff member working full-time on the city’s Low-Income Fare Pilot Program, so my job was to get the study ready for an early 2022 kickoff. This included making recommendations regarding gathering community input, establishing data-sharing agreements and MOUs, enrolling residents receiving government assistance, and collecting participant mobility data. The results of the study will help WMATA understand the impact of low- or no-fare transit on the health and well-being of low-income DC residents. It was a very busy but enriching summer, and I thoroughly appreciated getting exposure to two different DC government agencies. I recommend this internship program for anyone interested in transportation planning and/or local government!

Florence Dwyer – MCRP 2021, Transportation
Intern, District Department of Transportation (Virtual)

Over the summer, I worked virtually with DDOT (District Department of Transportation) on various freight-related projects in the District. My main project was to create a policy and operational framework that is data-driven and equitable to determine where automated enforcement cameras for truck restrictions could best be deployed. I researched best practices from other jurisdictions to inform this project. Another task I am currently working on is researching e-cargo bike pilot programs.

By Amy Patronella

Featured image courtesy of Pexels