The students will spend 35 hours per week on the "Celebrate Springfield" project analyzing the strengths, including expanding job opportunities, plans for two new hospitals and a range of other exciting avenues reflective of the forward momentum currently underway, as well as the challenges that affect community perceptions.
"The primary challenge of this project is understanding the psyche of the Springfield community, in the context of the challenges facing Midwestern urban communities, and developing an effective response that builds pride of Springfield citizens in their community," said Karen Reynolds, director of WittPath Career Services and one of two staff advisers to the interns.
Lin Erickson, director of corporate, foundation and government relations, will serve as the other staff adviser. The project will also have a faculty adviser, Pam Schindler, professor of management and director of Wittenberg's Center for Applied Management, who will coach students and provide considerable expertise as the project proceeds.
A further dimension of the project will be to promote Springfield's assets, including the downtown Renaissance, where to shop beyond the Bechtel Avenue area, its local neighborhoods, a wealth of recreational activities, the arts and its cultural events, as well as its educational opportunities. To accomplish this, each of the four interns will be paired with a mentor at a specific organization based on their major, experience and/or career interests. At Center City, for example, one intern will focus entirely on the downtown, especially shopping and events. One will work with City Hall and focus on surrounding downtown neighborhoods. Another will study the quality of life through the National Trail Parks and Recreation District. At the same time, one will work at Wittenberg to explore online methods to support the overall project.
"The project will be a team effort," Reynolds said. "Students will be placed at multiple sites to explore the proposed challenge from diverse perspectives. The group will also meet regularly to share insights, brainstorm effective strategies and collaborate on final outcomes of their work."
By the end of the program, which runs from June 9-July 31, students will be expected to deliver a resident-centered marketing plan as well as complete individual projects assigned by the respective site supervisors. The interns will also become ambassadors on campus for Springfield.
"In addition, students will recognize the importance of investing in their communities in which they live, work and play," Reynolds said.
The project is one of two being conducted through the new summer internship program, which selects a total of six students each summer to work exclusively with non-profit and government agencies focused on revitalizing the community. Those selected for the program’s inaugural year include Ashley Manson, class of 2009 from Covington, Ohio; Ben Adams, class of 2009 from Eaton, Ohio; Matt McDonald, class of 2009 from Lakewood, Ohio; Taylor Hafley, class of 2010 from Stanford, Ky.; Aubrey Herbst, class of 2009 from Columbus, Ohio; and Brian Schubert, class of 2009 from Norwalk, Ohio.
The interns competed against nearly 60 applicants for the six slots, and each will receive a stipend and housing. Four will be assigned to the "Celebrate Springfield" project, and two will spend the eight weeks working on a systematic effort to address the needs of at-risk youth in Clark County using a three-year grant awarded to Wittenberg, which has a tradition of community outreach and expertise in urban education and child development. The faculty adviser for the project will be Olga Medvedkov, professor of geography, who will also serve as a coach and share her expertise.
Prior to beginning their respective projects, the six interns are participating in an intensive weeklong orientation, June 9-13. The week includes a tour of the city by Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland, professor of religion at Wittenberg, discussions of the economy and community diversity, numerous meetings with community, city and governmental leaders, conversations with local residents and assigned community mentors, as well as on-site visitations of various agencies.
"The overall goal of the entire internship program is to pair students with select agencies to develop creative solutions to pressing urban challenges," Reynolds said. "For Wittenberg students, Springfield offers a rich learning environment where they can apply knowledge from the classroom to real world problems. At the same time, we want students to appreciate the assets of a community as well as prepare them to lead and advance the common good as active citizens in their own local communities."
Written By: Karen Gerboth
Photo By: Robert Gantt
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