Internships, Student Profiles

InnovateGov Service Learning Internship Featuring James Laney

james-laney-photoJames Laney is a second year Master of Public Policy student, and one of the five MPP students that participated in the InnovateGov Service Learning Internship program this summer. James attended Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomathematics. Before arriving to East Lansing, he was a math and science tutor at his university and privately around the city. He also led the tutors at the university tutoring center and graduated as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar.

Upon arriving to MSU, James was a grassroots coordinator for the Climate Reality Project and a legislative intern for Michigan House Representative LaTanya Garrett. This summer, he was placed with the Wayne County Department of Health, Veterans, and Community Wellness (HVCW), where he worked in a team of three interns to design a method of optimizing service delivery to county residents. Wayne County HVCW was established to coordinate and administer health, educational, youth, veteran, senior and social services to residents and communities in Wayne County in order to address the social determinants of health and community wellness. Their vision is to reduce and ultimately eliminate disparities and inequities related to social and environmental justice by focusing on financial education, healthy living and healthy neighborhoods.

james-laney-photo-2During his internship, James had two main projects. The first was designing a method of service delivery in the parks, which the intern team dubbed a “Wellness Zone.” The system developed required a comprehensive health needs assessment of the communities surrounding all the Wayne County Parks as well as an assessment of park resources that counter the negative trends in health in the host communities. These park resources may include a community garden to provide physical and social wellness, walking trails, and park-based festivals and farmers markets to specifically provide any dimension of wellness that may be lacking in the host community. After spending the summer researching and visiting the various parks in Wayne County, James and the other interns created a business plan and presented it to the Director of HVCW, Dr. Mouhanad Hammami. The business plan has now come before County Executive Warren Evans for final approval.

The second project James was tasked with was working in the community garden and beautifying the campus of the Health Administration Building. James found working in the garden to be one of the most satisfying experiences of his internship, and he enjoyed the days where they spent the entire day in the gardens.

According to James, his participation in InnovateGov was a defining experience and one that he will continue to look back on and draw inspiration from. Through his internship, he learned how to share his ideas and better manage his time. Professionally, he learned how to delegate responsibility more efficiently and tactfully resolve conflict before it arises. He also discovered a connection between what he is learning in the MPP program and the work he was doing through his internship, which was a great moment of insight for him.

Adaptability is a strength of James’, and he is open to all opportunities that are available. When he graduates, James would like to work for a local government or a think tank. He is also interested in teaching, and giving students a different perspective to public policy analysis. He does have political ambitions, but ultimately, wants to help organizations that are doing good in the world continue to do so.

Advertisements
Standard
Internships, Student Profiles

InnovateGov Service Learning Internship Featuring Elizabeth Raczkowski

Many cities in Michigan are challenged by insufficient resources and increasingly high expectations from their residents. City and county leaders, community advocates, and non-profit organizations may attempt to meet those demands, yet lack the resources or timgroupphotoe to design and see these innovations through the policy process. The goal of the InnovateGov Internship Program is to place MSU students in these organizations to help deliver and assist with these demands, while also providing our students with an opportunity to do real work on public problems.

One of these students was Elizabeth Raczkowski. Elizabeth graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science and an additional major in Political Science. While an undergraduate student, she worked as an assistant in an accounting office and wrote freelance articles and other content for business and other websites, including human resource consultants.

For her InnovateGov internship, Elizabeth worked for the Wayne County Treasury Office. The Treasury Office is responsible for collecting delinquent taxes for all the township, villages, and cities in Wayne County. In 2016, an estimated 60,000-70,000 properties are at risk of foreclosure; roughly one-third of those properties are owner or tenant occupied. They are also responsible for foreclosing on tax delinquent properties and administering payment plans that allow people to pay delinquent taxes in installments to avoid foreclosure. Working closely with five other interns, the Wayne County Treasury team developed new outreach methods for the office to inform people about delinquent taxes, payment plans, foreclosures, and other important information. The interns met with residents and many people from community groups, businesses, and offices to better understand community needs and how to make outreach more effective.

Throughout her experience with InnovateGov, Elizabeth learned a lot about how communication and lack of communication between different government offices and interested public groups can affect policy decisions. She also learned the importance of getting outside perspectives on problems and strategies so governments get a more complete and accurate picture. When she graduates, Elizabeth would like to work on problems that affect local governments. She is especially interested in policies that affect equitable economic development, particularly the planning and implementation process. She hopes to use the quantitative skills she has gained in the MPP program, along with her experiences working with people, to contribute to helping communities improve their ability to provide for their residents.

Standard
Internships

MPP in the Summer, The Places They Go: Marcus, Juan, Sean

This summer, three of Michigan State Master of Public Policy program students have taken on the City of Detroit’s Finance Department, Income Tax division. Marcus Coffin, Juan Loaiza and Sean Tobin are working in the Economic Policy Planning and Strategy office under Deputy Mayor Carol O’Cleireacain. This office is responsible for overseeing numerous aspects of Detroit’s tax collection process, from identifying non-filers to processing returns and providing customer service.

The project they have been working on is referred to as the Landlord-Tenant Project, in which they seek to identify city income tax non-filers in Greater Downtown Detroit with data obtained from the landlords and from the city’s tax software. This task involves a large amount of direct landlord contact and a huge data collection and cleaning operation. The goal is to develop a database that will give complete and accurate information in one place of residents that are subject to income tax and how to contact them. In finding the most effective method to do this each has played a part in offering new approaches. In particular Sean has had the opportunity to introduce and utilize his GIS skills to the current system to map income tax compliance in downtown neighborhoods over the past five years.

The MPP students were part of the inaugural class of InnovateGov, a program developed by Assistant Professor of Political Science Josh Sapotichne and MSU Extension faculty member Eric Scorsone to help students gain real-world experience in local government while assisting urban governments with complex problems. Sapotichne and Scorsone, who lead an ongoing research project on municipal fiscal distress and state intervention, worked with students throughout the summer to help connect their academic work to their experience at the city.

From the internship experience Marcus finds he has learned a great deal about how city bureaucracies function day-to-day. It has also taught him about how data is used in city government, and the importance of maintaining up-to-date data. When initially arriving in the city they were assigned to build a database from the ground up using data from disparate sources. Had their been a place where all of this data is collected and kept would have made the job far easier.

Juan has also come to find the importance of cities collecting data at present in order to ease future operations, programs and facilitate the leadership decision-making. In addition Juan has learned how to identify solutions to problems involving large amounts and incomplete data. He hopes moving forward through work such as this, more effective methods will be adapted in the public sector and cut back on current inefficiencies.

Through their time with the City of Detroit, Marcus, Juan and Sean have all come to gain a better understanding of bureaucratic operations and team building to accomplish set end goals. Their work is extremely important to the city and has come to be mutually beneficial.

 IMAG0941IMG-20150623-WA0006

Standard