SPEA students serve the city as interns for Indianapolis Mayor’s Office

Since he began attending SPEA IUPUI as an undergraduate in fall 2012, Andre Zhang Sonera has stayed busy participating in student organizations and completing three internships. In fall 2014, he served as an intern for the White House as part of SPEA’s Washington Leadership Program, and in summer 2015, he completed an internship at the New York Mayor’s Office of Operations. He also served as a Bicentennial/Operations intern for Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann in 2015-2016.

Now, as a Peterson Fellow, Zhang Sonera is responsible for coordinating the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office Internship Program for spring 2017. He credits his internship experiences for helping him understand what works well in an internship program.

“I wanted to bring that opportunity and experience to not only the students here at IUPUI but also to students who want to be in local government and gain their first introduction to public service,” he said.

The spring 2017 cohort consists of 10 graduate and undergraduate interns – all IUPUI students. Interns are placed in different departments within the Mayor’s Office, including Communications, the Office of Public Health and Safety, and others.

“The program is really providing these students with an opportunity to be a part of projects and get a better sense of how Indianapolis and city government operate,” Zhang Sonera said. “They’re working with deputy mayors, directors, and individuals who are key players here in the city and in the Mayor Hogsett administration.”

Three SPEA students were selected in this semester’s cohort. In the Q&A below, the students talk about how they plan to use their internship experience to make a positive difference.

Haleigh RiggerHaleigh Rigger, BSPA’18  
Office of Minority, Women & Business Development

Q: What will some of your responsibilities be as an intern at the Mayor’s Office?

A: My main responsibility will be community outreach and engagement, particularly with the disability community. I will be working with community partners and business owners to increase awareness of the office and services it offers.

Q: Why were you interested in interning in this area of the Mayor’s Office?

A: I like the idea of empowering individuals who normally do not have the same opportunities as other business owners and giving people a step up so they can improve their financial situation, and just making Indianapolis a more vibrant and diverse place to live is really important to me.

Q: How do you think this internship will bring you closer to your career goals?

A: This is my first time working in a government type of role, so I would really like to experience firsthand how the government sector plays a role in community development. I’m also really interested in learning more about Indianapolis and how I can immerse myself more in my community and learn how to best serve it.

Q: What has been your favorite experience so far at SPEA?

A: Probably the staff and faculty. I feel like the professors here really care about student success – they have a lot of real-world experience that is applicable in the classroom and so it’s really easy to see how my degree will translate to a job in the future when we have such great role models and leaders at the school.

Aileen IbarraAileen Ibarra, BSPA’17
Office of Constituent Services

Q: What will some of your responsibilities be as an intern at the Mayor’s Office?
A; I’ll be interning at the Office of Constituent Services within the Mayor’s Office. As an intern in Constituent Services, I am in constant communication with constituents. Any concerns are either redirected to a different department or we offer quick solutions. I assist in drafting letters, note cards, certificates, as well as collecting information for proclamations.

Q: Why were you interested in interning in this area of the Mayor’s Office?
A: In summer 2012, I interned with the Marion County Democratic Party and really fell in love with local politics. I’m hoping this internship at the Mayor’s Office will enable me to continue learning about all aspects of city government.

Q: How do you think this internship will bring you closer to your career goals?
A: This internship gives me first-hand experience in public service. My future goals include working in local government and this programs prepares me for just that.

Q: What has been your favorite experience so far at SPEA?
A: Definitely studying abroad in Athens, Greece, last May. I think just being able at the place where democracy started and being alone also – it really taught me a lot about myself and what I was capable of doing. As part of the program, we learned about the development and struggles of the Greece government.

Sheena LinvilleSheena Linville, MPA’17
Office of Veterans Affairs

Q: What will some of your responsibilities be as an intern at the Mayor’s Office?
A: In December, Mayor Hogsett signed a city council resolution saying that the city would participate in the Hidden Heroes Program, which was established by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and is aimed at celebrating and recognizing the people who take care of veterans. I’ve been involved in figuring out how the city will participate in this program and finding people who are already in the program in the city.

Q: Why were you interested in interning in this area of the Mayor’s Office?
A: Not only am I a veteran myself, but I had previously taken SPEA Lecturer Laura Littlepage’s class Do the Homeless Count?. As part of the course, I participated in the annual point-in-time count. I’ve also volunteered at Horizon House, so I was familiar with the issues people who experience homelessness deal with. My experiences as a veteran and learning about homelessness in the community I think made me a good fit for this area.

Q: How do you think this internship will bring you closer to your career goals?
A: I’d love to eventually work for the federal government, but ultimately I just want to do public service. This opportunity has given me experience in a public service position. So far I’ve enjoyed working in the Mayor’s Office – it’s allowed me to talk to and learn from people I otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Q: What has been your favorite experience so far at SPEA?
A: I don’t know that I have one favorite experience, but I’ve really enjoyed the connection that SPEA has to the city. Everything we learn and everything we do connects to the community and I think that’s what most students here anticipate doing, especially graduate students who are already working full-time jobs in nonprofits or in government agencies. Right now I’m working with a group to review financial literacy programs for the Marion County Commission on Youth as part of my MPA Capstone project. Working on a project for a community we live in has been an extremely valuable experience.