David-Earl Russell

Intern name: David-Earl Russell

Major(s)/Minor(s): Sociology major and Hispanic Studies minor 

Title/place of internship/fellowship, etc.: Park and Public Realm Research Intern

How did you find out about your internship/fellowship/etc.? I was able to find my internship with the help of Matt Lindstrom. Before the end of the fall semester, I had secured an internship. However, because of Covid-19, it was canceled. From that point on, I was struggling to find an internship that was willing to work with me virtually because a lot of organizations were not working out of their offices during this time. Matt Lindstrom knew that I along with other students were struggling to find new internships because of the pandemic we were experiencing. So, he reached out to those in his network and asked if anyone was willing to offer a virtual internship opportunity to the students who were apart of the Jackson Fellows Program. From his outreach, he got a lot of responses and I was able to do informal interviews with multiple organizations and pick one that best suited me.

What were your responsibilities at your internship/fellowship/etc.?W The main focus of my work was the relationship of communities in North Minneapolis to the ongoing park development along the Mississippi River. This opened up an opportunity for me to explore and research topics including equity, urban design, access to parks, value creation, civic engagement, transportation, environmental racism, and wealth creation. MPF is a new member of reimagining the civic commons (RCC) a national learning network that uses civic spaces and places to build connections and trust in communities. MPF is focused on North Minneapolis in this work. With the research done on the four main outcomes of RCC civic engagement, socioeconomic mixing, value creation, and environmental sustainability and preparing a report I was able to provide MPF a unique foundation to advance the work of RCC.

What was the most beneficial aspect of your experience? The most beneficial aspect of my experience was being able to do research on topics such as equity, urban design, access to parks, value creation, civic engagement, transportation, environmental racism, and wealth creation. While researching these topics, I gained a lot of new knowledge that I never knew existed.

What was the most surprising thing you experienced or learned during your internship/fellowship/etc.? The most surprising thing that I learned during my internship was how impactful a park can be. We don't really ever think past the simple use of a park which is a place to hang out and have fun. However, this internship forced me to think critically and analyze how we use parks and what are the benefits parks have to offer. Parks are more than what we think of them to be. They have the potential to increase community engagement, increase healthy living lifestyles, decrease the crime rate, bring wealth into communities, and much more.

How can you apply what you experienced at your internship/fellowship/etc. in the future? I can apply my experience from my internship into my grad school application because I am sure they will ask me about my experience with urban planning and what makes me want to be in this field of work. I can also use my experience to guide my capstone work and possibly use some of what I've learned as a research topic if possible. Most importantly, as I grow and move through the chapters of my life, I now have additional knowledge that I can use to better analyze the situations around me.

What advice would you offer to future students interested in this experience? My advice to future students interested in this experience is to bring your best self to the table and ensure that all of the work that you do at an internship is completed thoroughly and thoughtfully.