PPIA Program

“Diversity & Leadership in Public Service”

Internships provide a bridge between the classroom and the real world

Andrew Bryant_NECHVThis summer, MPA student Andrew Bryant spent 10 weeks as a consultant to the Centers Operations Department at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans (NECHV), a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending homelessness among veterans.

Bryant, who served in the Army after receiving his undergraduate degree in Business Administration in Legal Studies from the University of Miami, had never been employed by a civilian company. Although he wasn’t familiar with NECHV, he said he felt he would gain valuable experience by interning at the organization.

“Being a combat veteran, I hold the work of veteran support in very high regard,” Bryant said. “I have seen many of the unique challenges that veterans face when they return from deployments, and when transitioning from military service.”

Bryant worked under the supervision of Brian Reeves, vice president of operations and project management at NECHV. According to Reeves, Bryant was instrumental as he “quickly and naturally” filled a void in mid-level leadership within the organization, garnering the trust of staff and the veterans he supported.

“Andrew Bryant exceeded my every expectation of performance, dedication, and commitment to supporting the New England Center for Homeless Veterans,” Reeves said. “If not for his steadfast work ethic, natural hands-on leadership skills, and his congenial personality we would not have made it through this challenging time of staff turnover.

“From day one he developed and executed a carefully crafted agenda aimed specifically at tackling difficult and neglected processes. He surpassed 300 hours of work,” Reeves added. “Andy’s impact was such that other departments and organizations desired his input and participation on processes affecting their departments. Additionally, Andy served in outside events representing the center and the US Army. His cache as an active duty service member, volunteer, and graduate student was instrumental in building relationships and trust.”

Bryant shared his valuable internship experience and how he’s using the lessons he learned to deepen his research around veteran affairs and homelessness.

On his position at NECHV: This department included building security, maintenance, housekeeping, logistics and dining facility services. I was tasked to observe and evaluate these functions, then provide and implement recommendations as to how the organization could operate in a more effective way. I relied heavily on both my experience in the military and what I have learned in the Northeastern MPA program throughout the internship.

On bridging classroom knowledge with hands-on experience: I was able to relate what I have learned in the classroom in many ways, but two specific areas stood out. First, my studies in public policy at multiple levels of government – including Professor (Christopher) Bosso’s Techniques of Policy Analysis class – were instrumental in understanding how NECHV partners with the city, state and national government to provide its services. Second, the skills I learned in Professor (David) Rochefort’s Quantitative Techniques class, specifically in data collection, analysis, and presentation, allowed me to take an in-depth approach to consulting as well as understand the importance of proper accounting and records keeping. I was quite surprised how easily what I have learned as an MPA student translated to the daily functions of a nonprofit organization.

On acquired lessons: Interning at NECHV gave me great insight into both nonprofit organizations and the politics of veterans’ affairs. It also taught me several lessons about public administration in general. As in any industry, the public administration field comes with its own set of unique challenges and hurdles. I was fortunate to experience and learn from many of these challenges this summer. This hands-on experience will allow me to excel both in the classroom and in my future professional endeavors.

On current research: Driven by my experience this summer, I have continued my work in the area of veteran affairs. Currently, I am researching and writing a policy analysis of the problem of veteran homelessness throughout Massachusetts for Professor Michael Dukakis’ Institutional Leadership class. I have met with and interviewed the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Veteran Services, Francisco Urena, and by the end of the semester, I will provide him with recommendations on how Massachusetts can eliminate the problem of veteran homelessness. My research and recommendations have been greatly aided by my experiencing veteran homelessness firsthand this summer.

Northeastern students develop award-winning capstone

Morton Crossing Team - Codman Square NDCLast spring, four Northeastern students were challenged to create an innovative and comprehensive development proposal that would address the needs of Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, a local nonprofit whose mission is to build a better, stronger community in Codman Square and South Dorchester.

The goal, they said, was to develop a housing plan that could eventually be built at Morton Street Crossing on the Mattapan/Dorchester line.

Together, in collaboration with graduate students from Boston Architectural College, the group envisioned a mixed-use, mixed-income development with 35 affordable housing units. They presented their proposal at the 16th annual Affordable Housing Development Competition and scored a second place award that came with a $6,000 stipend.

Morton Crossing - Common Area

Rendering of Morton Crossing. Courtesy photo.

“We were the only team that did not have an Ivy League student on it so we didn’t expect to do as well as we did,” said Chelsea Biggs, who graduated with a Master of Public Administration in the spring. “It was the hardest I have worked for anything, so to hear our name called at the ceremony was unbelievable.” Biggs is now the youth programs and database coordinator at Screening for Mental Health, a local nonprofit dedicated to coordinating nationwide mental health screening programs.

Eric Goldman, who graduated with a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy (MURP) in the spring, said the capstone project allowed students to combine the knowledge they acquired in the classroom with the true nature of real world dynamic project development – multiple moving parts, interested stakeholders, and collaboration and compromise to grow a concept into a viable option that impacts the urban environment.

“The real world experience and struggles of working with stakeholders – politicians, developers, designers, community members, etc. – provided more than something to put on a resume,” said Goldman, who is now a senior consultant in global construction practice at Navigant Consulting in Fairfield, Conn. “During interviews and networking events, the capstone experience allows meaningful conversation and dialogue that shows my background, interests, and what I have to offer.”

But students weren’t the only ones to benefit from such a collaborative project. According to Vitalia Shklovsky, project manager at Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, the nonprofit gained valuable insights.

“I was really impressed with the work they did, and I was really happy to see them excited,” Shklovsky said. “Because they’re so new, it was really helpful to have them do so much work, especially in the community outreach piece. It was valuable on the company perspective to have that insight, basically free work, and building relationships with the students who will be entering the field.”

For Sandra Larson, a MURP graduate, the project was an “excellent microcosm” of working to craft solutions to a variety of urban problems.

The MURP program, she said, prepared her to tackle an affordable housing proposal that would be financially feasible and match the city of Boston’s goals as well as fit into the surrounding community on the Mattapan/Dorchester line.

“I felt well-prepared for the crucial tasks of dividing up and sharing the labor, communicating effectively and constantly across the whole team, respecting teammates’ time, and appreciating differences in communication and workflow management,” said Larson, a freelance journalist covering urban issues and minority communities in Boston. “This was a very intense project in a very condensed timeframe; having those teamwork and project management skills was very useful.”

To learn more about capstone projects and graduate programs, visit the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs webpage.