Internships, Student Profiles

InnovateGov Service Learning Internship Featuring Jordon Newton

jordon-newton-photoThis summer, 26 MSU students, including 5 MPP students, participated in the InnovateGov Service Learning Internship Program, and played a key role in changing the way the City of Detroit addresses a complex set of issues. Jordon Newton, second-year MPP student, was placed with Data Driven Detroit (D3), and spent his summer using data and delving into analysis to drive informed decision-making.

Jordon is originally from Spokane, Washington, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Gonzaga University. Now at MSU, he is an assistant coach on the MSU Debate Team. Jordon has always enjoyed working with numbers and data, so being placed with Data Driven Detroit was a perfect fit.

D3’s mission is to provide accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision- making across our communities. Their primary focus is in the Detroit area, with a few projects spilling over to the rest of Wayne County. D3 works with community partners to help improve the availability of information and helps provide analytical services to help drive those decisions.

The primary project Jordon worked on is the Turning the Corner project. The Turning the Corner project is sponsored by the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, in cooperation with the Urban Institute and the Federal Reserve, to find a way to better track neighborhood economic shifts across cities in the United States. Their effort is to help find datasets that are predictive of when a neighborhood is close to experiencing a drastic shift so policy makers can act to prevent potential negative effects, such as economic displacement or the collapse of a neighborhood, from those changes. Detroit is being used as a test case to build a national model. For this project, Jordon researched a few dozen potential data sources that could be used in this effort, and collected data.

In addition to the Turning the Corner project, Jordon also worked on data research and analysis for a local neighborhood’s application to receive Promise Neighborhood status. The vision of the Promise Neighborhood program is that all children and youth growing up in a Promise Neighborhood have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career. Jordon also worked on visual data development for a variety of projects (using ArcGIS), background research for a project to improve neighborhood outcomes, and surveyed housing parcels for a neighborhood organization to help prevent blight and clean up abandoned properties.

Through his internship, the most eye-opening lesson was the difficulties in coordination and communication among the organizations within the community. According to Jordon, this problem goes far beyond individual actors, as there are dozens of organizations looking to help on any given issue, but in many instances they keep their actions uncoordinated, which can decrease the effectiveness of each organizations action.

Upon graduation from the MPP program, Jordon would like to do academic policy research, either as a faculty member at a research institution or for a primarily research-based organization, and would like to enter a PhD program in the future.

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