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2020 Student Projects

Fall 2020

Matthew Clifford

Class of 2021
Major: Earth Science and Policy
Community partner: 412 Food Rescue

During his internship, Matthew helped 412 Food Rescue expand their reach and address food insecurity in Pittsburgh. He worked with staff and volunteers to collect surplus food and distribute it to locals in need, supporting the 412 Food Rescue motto that “good food belongs to people, not landfills.” Matthew also attended workshops and learned about food policy in Pennsylvania, food trends across the country, and how COVID-19 affects hunger relief and the food industry.

Mingrui (Ray) Jia

Class of 2020
Major: Landscape Architecture
Minor: Sustainability Leadership
Community partner: Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania

Ray interned with the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, helping them in their mission to connect people to the natural world. He promoted and created materials for the Certified Backyard Habitat Program, which helps participants transform their backyards into hospitable locations for birds, insects, butterflies, and animals. Ray also learned about native plants and how to use them in designing for outdoor spaces.

Jiashang (Jason) Liu

Class of 2020
Majors: Landscape Architecture, Economics
Community partner: J. Frank Studios

Jason interned with local landscape architecture firm J. Frank Studios, gaining valuable hands-on experience with their current projects and learning how sustainability is put into practice in Pittsburgh. Jason helped coordinate construction documents, planting plans, concept renderings and images, and website updates. He also assisted with The Pittsburgh Redbud Project, an initiative to introduce flowering eastern redbuds in downtown Pittsburgh.

Julia Messina

Class of 2020
Major: Earth Sciences
Community partner: Just Harvest

Julia spent her semester promoting a healthy lifestyle through her internship with Just Harvest. She worked with Just Harvest’s Fresh Access program to encourage Pittsburgh residents to use food stamps to buy fresh foods at their local farmers markets. The program presents an equitable solution for families struggling to access fresh and nutritious foods at affordable prices. Julia worked with staff, volunteers, and local farmers and vendors to better understand the challenges of those in need of food assistance.

Shiyuan (Tiger) Wang

Class of 2020
Major: Landscape Architecture
Community partner: Grounded Strategies

Tiger explored how design can revitalize a neighborhood during her internship with Grounded Strategies. She worked on research and design projects, including the Geared Up and Grounded Bike Tour and a project to plant wildflowers on vacant lots in distressed and transitional communities. Through these efforts, Tiger learned about improving community health and creating sustainable communities, as well as the social, economic, and environmental impacts of this work.

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Summer 2020

In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, City Semester Pittsburgh transitioned to an online model. This move afforded participating students the unique opportunity to complete the program requirements, including their sustainability-focused community internships, from a distance. As the summer session drew to a close, students presented their end-of-semester program summaries virtually.

Sierra Astle

Sierra Astle's final project posterClass of 2023
Majors: Materials Sciences, Engineering
Community Partner: Pennsylvania Solar Center

Sierra’s summer internship focused on mobilizing Pennsylvania residents to advocate for solar energy for Renew PA Works, an initiative of the Pennsylvania Solar Center. She also supported Pennsylvania Solar Center’s work to advocate for legislation to pass the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act.
Sierra’s significant takeaways from her City Semester Pittsburgh experience are “the importance of involving everyone you’re working with in creating solutions and collaborating with people from different specialties.”

Claire Byrnes

Claire Byrnes' final project posterClass of 2022
Major: Anthropology and Geography
Community Partner: Pennsylvania Solar Center

Claire was a virtual intern with the Pennsylvania Solar Center and worked on their Renew PA Works campaign, mapping solar panel installations as well as fossil fuel use throughout Pennsylvania.

While working for two local farms, she learned about agrivoltaics, the simultaneous use of land for solar energy generation as well as agricultural production. She worked for Kretschmann Organic Farm, who uses a solar-powered electric tractor in its blackberry growing operations, and Frankford Farms, who uses solar power to mill flour that is sold directly to customers.

Dayna Glassburg

Dayna Glassberg's final project posterClass of 2021
Major: Earth Science and Policy
Community Partner: Pennsylvania Solar Center

Dayna spent her summer 2020 City Semester Pittsburgh experience working on grassroots advocacy movements for the Pennsylvania Solar Center. She worked on Solar for All, a website that collects important information about solar energy for Pennsylvania residents and also contributed to the #RenewPA social media campaign.

Emily Kiver

Emily Kiver's final project posterClass of 2021
Majors: International Politics, Earth Science and Policy
Community Partner: Pennsylvania Solar Center

Driven by her interested is how solar energy will impact Pennsylvania’s economy, Emily chose to work on Pennsylvania Solar Center’s #RenewPA social media campaign. She and other interns leveraged social media to mobilize companies, non-profits, college students, and other individuals to advocate for more solar energy in Pennsylvania. She also researched the economic impact of Pennsylvania’s entrance into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Sarah Larkin

Sarah Larkin's final project posterClass of 2022
Major: Landscape Architecture
Community Partner: Nine Mile Run Watershed Association and StormWorks

Throughout the summer of 2020, Sarah collaborated with the staff at StormWorks to design rain gardens for the Rosedale Runoff Reduction Project, a Nine Mile Run Watershed Association initiative.

Sarah performed her internship duties virtually using Google Maps to familiarize herself with the streets of Pittsburgh and Zoom to communicate with her mentors and Penn State Center Pittsburgh staff. Though working from a distance, Sarah felt truly connected to Pittsburgh and her collaborators, noting “this whole semester, I felt immersed in Pittsburgh, even though I wasn’t there. It felt like I went there and really learned about the people.”

Lauren Russell

Lauren Russell's final project poster

Class of 2021
Major: Community, Environment, and Development
Community Partner: New Sun Rising

Lauren focused on sustainability by design for her summer 2020 City Semester Pittsburgh experience. She worked with New Sun Rising to advance the interests of the Millvale EcoDistrict in Pittsburgh. Her work included supporting community assessments and using inclusive approaches to community planning to foster resiliency and sustainability. Working with a non-profit was a new and unique learning experience for Lauren, who had previously interned with local government units.

Katie Wotus

Katie Wotus' final project posterClass of 2021
Major: Earth Science and Policy
Community Partner: Pittsburgh Food Policy Council

Katie spent the summer of 2020 working with the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council. Her final project focused on her work with the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council to advance the city’s regional food system.

Katie found the City Semester Pittsburgh program to be rewarding professional experience. “Working with the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council has solidified my passion for working in a food system,” she said.

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