Working for City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden
Hello, my name is Jeremiah Osokpo and I am a rising senior at Hamline University. This summer has been a special fulfilling experience working as an Urban Scholar within City Council for the Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden who represents the 8th Ward in the City of Minneapolis. As I sit here reflecting on the opportunities and projects that I’ve been a part of because of this position, I cannot help but smile. These past few weeks have opened up doors to new learning opportunities, and a great deal of making a visible impact in our neighboring community. I can honestly say that participating whole heartedly in the work that we’re doing, there’s never a dull moment working with Andrea Jenkins, Deebaa Sirdar, and CVP Glidden.
My position in CVP Glidden’s office has given me the opportunity to gain a real world experience on how to execute projects that affect the city, work with other offices that are willing to invest in your project, interact with top leaders and organizations in the City of Minneapolis, and better communicate with the residents within Ward 8. These unique opportunities have taught me how to take on a challenge greater than any other that I’ve previously encountered, which is what the City Council members do every day. The work that they do demands not only their time and effort but also a team capable and willing to deal with unique events. This is why I consider myself lucky to receive an abundance of guidance from such a knowledgeable and hard-working staff.
Throughout my internship thus far, I’ve primarily been working on a historical designation project which the nomination for its designation was recently supported and nominated by the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) and the Heritage Preservation Commission. The project is focused on the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder which is the longest running African American family owned newspaper in Minnesota. This designation will help maintain and improve the neighborhoods value, bring recognition to the newspaper, as well as highlight the rich African American history that lies within Minneapolis. Working on this project I’ve had the opportunity of working with other offices such as CPED to help prepare a designation study and establish a landmark within the 8th Ward. This project is just one of several projects that I’ve either participated in or executed.
Another part of this project is that we are not only conducting a designation study but we are also including oral interviews from elders of importance to the paper and individuals that can share a good history of the Spokesman Recorder. Some of these individuals will hopefully include Wayne Glanton, Skip Humphrey, Gary Cunningham, and Peter McLaughlin. These are not only great leaders in the City of Minneapolis but they also have a wealth of information which would both highlight the importance of the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder and yield some information that may be important to African American history in Minneapolis.
I’m humbled and grateful for this experience because I truly believe that each day brings forward a new challenge and the Urban Scholars program teaches you how to encounter those challenges and conquer them through the resources that are available. CVP Glidden’s office is especially interested in making sure that I receive the best opportunity out of this internship which is why they’ve taken me to committee meetings to see a behind-the-scenes look at how committees make decisions that positively affect Minneapolis, exposed me to other city departments such as the Minneapolis 311, as well as getting me familiar with some of the other City Council members.
Lastly, our office is not only focused on getting you the best experience but also having fun along the way. We have bonding sessions planned to come together as a group and do something creative and fun which strengthens our relationship as a group. More than that, I know that I am forming a support system for the future. I’ve learned what it takes to create long-lasting interpersonal relationships, improved my work ethic through setting goals, and gained knowledge that I would not have had otherwise. I’m excited for the rest of my internship because this I believe is one of the biggest stepping-stones of my college career which will eventually grant me a better spot in the professional world.
Toastmasters International- Incorporating Vocal Variety and Gestures
Hi, my name is Brittany Rice and I am a student at William Mitchell College of Law. Through the Urban Scholars program I am working at the Regulatory Services Department for the City of Minneapolis.
I wanted to be an Urban Scholar because of the unique opportunity to work for the City and also gain valuable leadership and public speaking training, among other things. I am going into my final year of law school and though I haven’t decided in which area of law I would like to practice, I do know that I want to work in the public sector. This is why the Urban Scholars program has been amazing for me.
I am writing to discuss a recent Toastmasters International session. Toastmasters International is an educational organization and is part of the Urban Scholars program, to help us Scholars improve our public speaking abilities. Every week for an hour we alternate between learning specific skills and performing speeches to incorporate the skills learned at previous meetings. An important part of these sessions is evaluating each other’s speeches, which is not only helpful for the speaker but also for the evaluator.
This last Friday our Toastmasters International session was about incorporating vocal variety and gestures into speeches. The speakers who presented this week demonstrated the importance of using both of these techniques. Vocal variety includes a variance of volume, pitch, rate or quality. One speaker even emphasized how powerful silence can be (“silence is golden”). You can use vocal variety and still demonstrate your own personality; after all, you want to be genuine or the audience will be able to tell. It is important to use vocal variety to keep the audience and engaged. The other technique, incorporating body language, can be done through multiple avenues. One avenue is to use facial expressions, where the speaker can demonstrate many emotions, for example, joy through smiling, anger through a scowl, or confusing with a skeptical look. Another avenue is through gestures, in which there are conventional, descriptive, and emotional types. On final technique that I will mention is to use whole body movement. It is helpful to appear relaxed and comfortable, and also to change what position you stand in throughout the speech.
By incorporating vocal variety and gestures, a speech can become more engaging, entertaining, and meaningful. Next week, we have the privilege of attempting this challenge in a 3-5 minute speech!
During Friday’s session we also participated in table topics, which is when an individual is called up to make a speech about a topic they are told about right before they have to perform. This is especially difficult because the speaker is expected to have an introduction, discuss two or three main points, and a conclusion tying it all together—all in two minutes or less. This was not the first week of table topics; however, this was the first week that we had the bell! The bell was rung whenever the speaker uses any “filler” words, such as “um”, “and”, “like”, “uh”, etc. The point of this exercise is to make the speaker more aware of when he or she uses any filler words, and try to avoid further uses. I was the first person to be called, and fortunately I survived—I believe the bell only rang one or maybe two times during my speech!
My summer as an Urban Scholar has been better than anything I could have ever hoped for. I am extremely thankful and grateful that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this experience.
DEPARTMENTAL WORK IN THE CONTRACT COMPLIANCE DIVISION OF THE MINNEAPOLIS DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS
My name is Gene Kelley. I am a rising, third-year law student at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. And, I am an Urban Scholar in the Contract Compliance Division (“CCD”) of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights (“MDCR”). As stated on its website , the Division “monitors City of Minneapolis construction and development, commodities and supplies, and professional and technical services contracts by enforcing related local and federal civil rights and wage laws and policies.” This is no small task. In order to ensure compliance with the various programs it monitors, the CCD must have its finger on the pulse of every City Department contracting in any of the aforementioned areas.
As an Urban Scholar, who came into this Department with a limited knowledge of compliance programs and an even more limited knowledge of how the City of Minneapolis is internally structured, I was overwhelmed. After my first week working in the CCD I felt as though there was no way I would ever figure out how this Division works, let alone where I, as an Urban Scholar, would fit. Then came the second week. On Friday, June 6, 2014, the CCD was conducting its Contractor and Developer Compliance Seminar. The Seminar was one of the CCD’s many outreach efforts geared towards educating contractors and developers, who work or desire to work with the City, about how to comply with local and federal equal opportunity programs. Suffice it to say, that leading up to the Seminar the CCD office was frenetically busy. I quickly realized that this was an “all hands on deck” situation. And I tried my best to help assemble the necessary materials, PowerPoints, and educational handouts.
It was through these preparations that I started to get to know the ordinances and policies that the CCD monitors. More importantly however, I began to get to know my coworkers and supervisors. As we all strove to complete the Seminar preparations and tie up loose ends, I realized that while it would take a long time for me to become versed in all of the programs CCD monitors, it took no time at all for the Division to consider me a part of the team. The CCD staff brought me aboard and started coaching me as to how I could help make the seminar the success that it ultimately became.
Since those first days in the Division, I have had the privilege of being able to work on shaping new policies and programs the CCD plans to implement, draft requests for City Council action, analyze legal issues and statistical data, and a host of other matters with which the CCD deals every day. And, though I am still struggling to master the nuances and requirements of each ordinance, program, statute, policy, and standard to which the CCD ensures compliance; I now know that the most important aspect of the CCD’s work starts with personal interactions centered on treating all people with the same respect and equality the CCD staff afforded me when I started in the Division as an Urban Scholar.
The mission statement of the CCD, states, “It is the mission of the Contract Compliance Division to ensure that companies take affirmative steps to treat people fairly, pay appropriately, and provide equal access to business contracts and employment opportunities.” To date, my experiences have shown me that the CCD takes great steps to ensure that its Mission is promulgated by example.
By the time this blog is published I will be roughly 70% of the way through the Urban Scholars Program. I will have read and re-read City Ordinances, compiled many spreadsheets, and asked hundreds of questions. But most importantly, I will have been a part of the CCD team, working to ensure that others like me, just starting out or looking for a job or internship, are treated fairly and afforded equal opportunities.
Youth Engagement Project Update
Hello my name is Rattana Sengsoulichanh and I am currently a junior at the University of Minnesota majoring in Urban Studies. This summer I am working as an Urban Scholar in the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development in Long Range Planning. With my interest in urban planning, my assignment to Long Range Planning has superseded my expectations. I am working alongside the City’s urban designer and planners, and gaining valuable experience in how community input translates to how our community looks and feels. I applied to be an Urban Scholar because I want to work in my community, and give back to the City that has helped me grow over the years. Being an Urban Scholar has given me an opportunity to learn about the process of City government, and has helped me understand my leadership style to be able to better lead.
Outside of my regular department work, myself and a select number of Urban Scholars are working on this summer’s group project: Blue Print for Equitable Engagement- Youth Project with our advisor Lance Knuckles from the Department of Neighborhood and Community Relations. The project is centered on youth engagement, and how the City can create better access for the voices of the City’s youth to be incorporated in City government decision making processes. In the next couple weeks, Urban Scholars will be conducting focus groups with various youth organizations within the City of Minneapolis, and take that information to craft solutions, and then present our recommendations to City Council.
The project group has been meeting every week, and has been divided up into three teams: the engagement team, data team, and presentation team. The engagement team is tasked with organizing and facilitating the focus groups, the data team is responsible for dissecting the responses from the focus groups, and the presentation team will be working on the presentation to City Council, with the responsibility of the collective to understand existing policies.
The most challenging part of this process for me is to understand existing policies. Then I must understand to whom are those policies affecting, and their roles. With this challenge, I believe I am in such a special opportunity to work alongside other Urban Scholars that are passionate about this work, and learn together with many resources around us to help us succeed.
Hello all. My name is Milliecia Lacy and I am a rising sophomore at Macalester College where I will be double majoring in International Studies and Political Science. I wanted to be an Urban Scholar for all of the professional development the program and its various opportunities would provide me with. So far, working in the department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) for the City of Minneapolis has not disappointed me.
Initially, one of my goals for the summer was to learn about how the city actually functioned. I have lived in Minneapolis all my life but understand very little about how this transformed into that, why development happened here instead of there, and so on. After working in my department for about a week I quickly learned why this goal would be a far-fetched accomplishment for only 12 weeks. With a total of 4 divisions and with offices in multiple buildings throughout downtown, CPED is one of the largest departments within the City of Minneapolis. I work in the division of Economic Development and Policy and it is a struggle fully understanding this division in itself.
You may have noticed that downtown retail is not exactly buzzing with activity. With stores such as Ann Taylor and Sak’s Fifth Avenue closing their doors, the already limited selection of retail is becoming more limited. Downtown Minneapolis has lost much of its competitive edge to other shopping centers such as the Mall of America and Uptown. Although retail has reached an all-time low, downtown has actually been seeing more development largely due to a steady increase in the number of downtown residents throughout the years. In order to support that growth and provide better access to goods and services for its residents, the downtown Retail Recruitment Initiative was established to determine just what retail to attract. This is where I fit in. College students in the past have mentioned they would indeed go shopping downtown if there were a retail selection that catered to them. Currently, their business is largely going to the MOA instead. In order to address this, I am working on creating a survey of University of Minnesota students and other college students in the downtown area to determine which retailers they would patronize. Once completed, this information will then be taken to potential retailers as evidence of the future purchasing needs of college students.
I am also responsible for conducting research regarding non-residential and residential information, retail space availability, developmental projects, and timelines, etc. In addition to improving record keeping within the City, this data can further be used to help tell potential retailers a story of what downtown Minneapolis is and what it is transforming into.
The downtown Retail Recruitment Initiative is just one way CPED is working to make Minneapolis grow. Downtown will be experiencing a lot of remodeling in the near future with the 2025 Plan, which is seeking to double the downtown population, transform Nicollet Avenue into a “must-see” destination, create parks, establish a sports-district, and to overall make it a compelling and an attractive place to be. You can find details for the 2025 Plan here at http://www.downtownmpls.com/page/show/423275-2025-plan. Although I understand these are important improvements that will contribute to a successful downtown and ultimately a more successful Minnesota, all this development got me to thinking about how division is created, either intentionally or unintentionally in a city, specifically in regards to lower income, homeless, or even minority populations. The question I continue to ask CPED is, amidst all this development, what will be the “new face” of downtown?
My name is Ka Zoua Vang. This fall, I will be a junior at the University of Minnesota, majoring in elementary education. As a 2013 Urban Scholar, I learned so much about the City of Minneapolis, which led me to return for a 2nd year to take on a new challenge and opportunity to learn more about my home - Minneapolis. This summer, I have the pleasure of working with Minneapolis Public Schools in the Office of Student, Family, and Community Engagement alongside another Urban Scholar. Our work at MPS this summer aligned perfectly with the Graduation Coach presentation given to us by Emma Buechs, a representative from AchieveMpls.
One of the biggest indicators of success among youth is having a supportive and caring adult in their life. This idea was echoed throughout the presentation given to the Urban Scholars on July 11th, 2014. The Graduation Coach program is an initiative to provide trusting and healthy mentor/mentee relationships for Minneapolis high school students so that they can be college and career ready. The Graduation Coach program is a wonderful opportunity for people to engage with and make meaningful relationships with students in their community.
The following details what it means to be a graduation coach:
•Undergoing training, orientation, and debriefs two times a year
•Getting matched with a high school student based on compatibility through speed matching
•Meeting the student in school once a month for 1 hour
•Staying with student for the academic school year
For those who want to give back to their community and help Minneapolis Public School students succeed and thrive, this program is the perfect opportunity. As an MPS alumni and future educator, I believe this program is a great way to inspire our future leaders to dream big and achieve great things.
To learn more, visit http://www.achievempls.org/get-involved/volunteer/become-achievempls-graduation-coach or contact Emma Buechs at email@example.com or 612-455-1533.
Former Mayor Rybak Praises Urban Scholars
Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak calls Urban Scholars innovative, as it helps solve the single biggest issue facing businesses today, getting ready for the coming worker shortage.