Breaking Through Dead Ends: My Internship Journey

This semester, I am in an internship created by the University of Pittsburgh’s Frederick Honors College in collaboration with the Fayette County Cultural Trust (FCCT) where I am working to grow economic resilience in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, with several students that were involved in capstone research last semester. Upon the first meeting with President and Executive Director of the FCCT, Michael Edwards and Dan Cocks, I was tasked with continuing asset map development I initiated last year, as well as beginning research into developing tourist resources in the county. 

Last semester, we made great strides in creating an asset map of the county that we hope to utilize on local websites and social media. We formed several asset categories, compiled hundreds of cherished locations, and began developing a basic and accessible GoogleMap and ArcGIS StoryMap that can be accessed via QR code. However, as the GIS student that created the initial ArcGIS map graduated and I as well expect to graduate soon, I wanted to create a plan that improves the longevity of our previous research progess. Hence, the creation of the Student GIS Collaboration Network. I know that there are several students here at the University of Pittsburgh aiming to acquire GIS experiences while fulfilling certificate requirements, and I wanted to create an opportunity that offers both! 

Initially, I met with Susan Lucas, a professor in the Urban Studies program with a GIS focus here at Pitt, and acquired a list of recommended GIS students looking for experience. I also am meeting with Roverta De Carvalho, a faculty member within the Urban Studies program, to develop the internship in which the students will work under. Once the logistics of the internship are finalized through the University, I will interview the list of students that have reached out and decide which projects suit each student’s skill set. There are a few projects that Michael and Dan are interested in including finalizing asset mapping as well as developing a map that analyzes property prices in the area. I hope to finalize the internship in the next week or so, and get student interviews started. 

Additionally, another Pitt student involved in the internship, Sophia Shapiro, is working to develop internships for the local high school students at Uniontown High School. So far, she has found several students that wish to collaborate with the University and has created various media opportunities, including the development of a Uniontown Twitter and Instagram. I wanted to help Sophia diversify some opportunities offered, so I met with local non-profits in the area to see if they were interested in creating student projects. After meeting with the Director of the GAP Trail, the Director of the National Road Heritage Corridor, and specialists at Ohiopyle State Park, there are various conservation opportunities that the students can participate in. I am planning to meet again with each non-profit as well as faculty from the Uniontown High School to define next steps. 

What surprised me the most about this internship, so far, was how many times my project focus would change! Initially, Mike and Dan wanted me to be tourism focused (specifically tourism transportation), but as I met with several local organizations, I found that I was hitting dead ends! I wanted to form some internships for the high school students within the tourism transportation industry, but the organizations I reached out to did not have the capacity to initiate these projects. When I asked “Could you utilize help from the Uniontown High School Students?,” many said that they could, but did not have the particular staff to supervise this project.  Although I hit some bumps, I am excited to see what comes up in the next few weeks. I see that my internship is essentially creating other internships, but it is incredibly rewarding! Even if I am not able to finalize my internships, I hope I have progressed and planned enough to where a student in the next capstone or internship can follow up, however, I hope I will have finalized an internship for at least one student by the end of the semester!

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