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Student Spotlight

Explore Student Projects

City Semester Pittsburgh students enrich their education experience by interning with a Pittsburgh business, organization, or nonprofit. Internships typically focus on some aspect of sustainability and give students the chance to learn by doing while benefiting the Pittsburgh region.

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
Internship: 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
Internship: 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
Internship: 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
Internship: 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
Internship: 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 posterClass of 2021
Major: Community, Environment, and Development
Internship: 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
Internship: 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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Fall 2019

Paul Petrinferni 

Earth Mineral Science major
Class of 2020 
Community partner — PA Solar Center 

Paul was interested in alternative energy. His City Semester Pittsburgh internship was with PA Solar Center and included lobbying in Harrisburg for solar energy. Paul educated himself on PA legislators across the state and learned many technical details about solar energy. He found his internship incredibly valuable.

Devin Walk 

RPTM (Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Management) major
Class of 2020
Community partner — PPG Paints Arena 

Devin Walk landed his once-in-a-lifetime internship with PPG Paints Arena. Being a RPTM (Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Management) major with a sports emphasis and working in the Penguins venue was an amazing experience. Devin was able to work all types of events at the arena including an Elton John performance. It was an experience only available to a City Semester Pittsburgh student.

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Fall 2018

Demi Badejo

Health Policy and Administration major
Class of 2019
Community partner — Center for Victims

Demi Badejo’s placement at one of Center for Victims’ residential facilities for women and children involved providing critical support to those in need of safe housing assistance and comprehensive services. A Health Policy and Administration major with a minor in Women’s Studies, Demi examined affordable housing as a sustainability imperative, revealing a study that showed that 57% of women experiencing homelessness report domestic violence as the immediate cause.

Jordyn Hinkle

Earth Science and Policy major, Sustainability Leadership minor
Class of 2020
Community partner — Green Building Alliance (GBA)

In Jordyn Hinkle’s work on the Pittsburgh 2030 District Progress Report, she applied her Earth Science and Policy major and minor in Sustainability Leadership by collecting and analyzing energy performance and indoor air quality data; assisting building owners in complying with Pittsburgh’s building energy performance legislation; and engaging in strategic outreach for GBA’s Make My Trip Count survey, which aims to reducing vehicular emissions throughout the Pittsburgh region.

Jamie Parke

Community Economic Development graduate student
Class of 2019
Community partner — Fourth Economy

Fourth Economy engaged Jamie Parke, a Community and Economic Development graduate student, in a community planning project focused on Andrew Carnegie’s first library, the Braddock Carnegie Library, built in 1889. The library was saved from demolition 40 years ago and has been extending its role as community anchor. The project sought resident input on the library’s future use and connection to the community to create greater social capital and equity for the city’s sustainable future.

James Tierney

Geosciences major
Class of 2020
Community partner — Allegheny County Conservation District (ACCD)

James Tierney thought his work as a Geoscience major would mean “him, his soils, and pollution,” but came to understand that “it really was about people.” By initiating ACCD community outreach events and conducting soils assessments for local community organizations, his work with the Urban Agriculture and Soils Program guided policy research and informed decisions on the reuse of vacant land for neighborhood initiatives in Pittsburgh.

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Fall 2017

Erifili Draklellis

Earth Science and Policy major, Sustainability Leadership minor
Class of 2019
Community partner — Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC)

Erifili Draklellis worked with PEC staff on a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Conservation Landscape Initiative. By assessing local and regional assets, compiling economic impact information, and conducting research and resource inventories for a newly designated conservation landscape, this project connected environmental resources with community well-being and economic sustainability.

Anthony Mitchell

Political Science major
Class of 2017
Community partner — Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)

Anthony Mitchell’s work with the URA addressed property stabilization in several Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Collaborating with a broad range of community stakeholders, this project’s urban sustainability strategy encompassed public policy, local infrastructure and civic engagement. Following his graduation, Anthony’s networking in Pittsburgh helped him land a position with the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C.

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