A service summer: UPD students look back on Community Service Fellowships

Seven of the 11 winners of this year’s Community Service Fellowships were UPD students. The Community Service Fellowship grants, offered by GSD Career Services, allow students to do project-based, 10-week internships for non-profit or public sector agencies. As the summer comes to a close, UPD’s summer fellows reflect on their experiences.

Kate Anderson, MUP ’14 Department of Economic and Housing Development, Newark The opening of Newark’s new Riverfront Park represented a major victory in that city’s quest to reclaim the polluted Passaic River for the public realm. Kate Anderson, Kate Anderson and colleagues at Newark waterfront park working under Newark’s chief urban designer and planning director Damon Rich (LF ’07), developed educational materials on the park to be distributed throughout local schools and given to visitors. “The poster is a form of urban pedagogy that will provide information on the history of Newark, its riverfront, and how to get involved and advocate for an expanded riverfront park system,” she said. Anderson also performed public outreach to help plan the August 3 opening celebration.

“It was great to see the successful completion of an initiative that had taken many years to complete, and to see the level of cooperation and persistent advocacy and patience that is necessary to move something forward,” said Anderson. She also appreciated living in Newark for the summer, and experiencing the conditions that her work sought to address.

Tim Czerwienski, MUP ’14 Union Square Main Streets, Somerville, Mass. Union Square, Somerville The long-anticipated arrival of the MBTA Green Line extension to Union Square, Somerville’s historic downtown, will bring new development, a new built form, a new streetscape—and new parking. Tim Czerwienski spent the summer studying strategies for managing parking demand in Union Square. His final report recommended zoning changes to encourage sharing of parking facilities, parking management techniques, and design principles for a potential new parking garage. “By using parking resources more efficiently, Union Square can accommodate drivers without detracting from the dense, vibrant streetscape the city has envisioned,” he said.

The Green Line puts Union Square at the intersection of many important planning issues, Czerwienski said. “Dealing with transportation, design, and economic development at such a local level was a tremendous opportunity.”

Trevor Johnson, MUP ’14 N.Y.C. Department of City Planning, Waterfront and Open Space Division The damage wrought last year by Hurricane Sandy laid bare how vulnerable many municipalities are to the effects of climate change. Trevor Johnson studied the vulnerability of New York City’s historic resources to coastal flooding and sea level rise, producing a set of citywide maps showing the location of landmarks that fall within current and projected flood zones. Johnson also wrote a report detailing preservation-friendly approaches to retrofitting historic buildings for greater resilience, and the policy implications of those measures.

Johnson said he enjoyed the chance to get into the details of his subject. “I had the opportunity to dive deeply into the inner workings of flood insurance policy and the implications of federal insurance regulations on the built environment in areas prone to flooding.”

Lizzie MacWillie, MAUD ’14 Building Community Workshop, Dallas, Texas Over the past three decades, the Dallas Arts District has become one of the premier visual and performing arts hubs in the country. Next June, it will be host to the third annual New Cities Summit, bringing urbanists, designers, and policy makers from around the world to Dallas. With the Building Community Workshop, a non-profit design center, Lizzie MacWillie has been working on a strategic plan for projects and collaborations that will lead up to and complement the program of the summit. She also worked on another project, “Activating Vacancy,” exploring how design and art can re-imagine neglected spaces in Dallas’s Tenth Street community.

MacWillie said there were a number of skills needed for this type of work that aren’t typically addressed in design schools. “I’ve learned a lot from others in the office about communication—both between coworkers, and also with community members and clients.”

Adrienne Mathews, MUP ’14 Union Square Main Streets, Somerville, Mass. Adrienne Mathews at community meeting The City of Somerville has zoned for transit oriented development around the new Union Square MBTA Green Line station, potentially creating a dense core south of the historic heart of the square. Adrienne Mathews explored multi-modal links between Union Square and the new transit station. She also worked on a second project, developing design and management solutions for Sanborn Court, an alleyway in Union Square where several popular restaurants and businesses have recently been established.

Mathews said she learned a lot about the interaction between local organizations and city government. “At first, I was unsure of what response to expect from local government, both to my work and to the work of the organization in general,” she said. “People I’ve spoken to in the various planning departments in the City of Somerville have been very gracious and very willing to help, and are genuinely interested in finding shared solutions.”

Alison Tramba, MUP ’14 MASS Design Group, Boston, Mass. Founded by two GSD graduates in collaboration with Partners in Health, MASS Design Group uses architecture and design to improve health outcomes in the developing world. Alison Tramba worked with a team to write standards and guidelines for health infrastructure in Liberia. “In the absence of any real building code in the country, this document is intended to be used by architects, engineers, contractors, facility operators, and anyone else involved in the construction and management of healthcare facilities across the country,” she said.Liberia

Tramba spent two weeks in Liberia, an experience she said will be valuable if she pursues international planning after graduation. “The trip significantly increased my understanding of the technical, logistical, and political challenges associated with healthcare delivery in Liberia, especially in rural areas that lack running water and electricity,” she said. 

Irene Figueroa Ortiz, a MArch I student who will be joining the UPD Department as a MUP’15 in the fall, was also a Community Service Fellow. She spent her summer at the Detroit Collaborative Design Center.

Photo of Newark waterfront courtesy of Damon Rich