Summer Internship Experience

I look back to early April when the Chair of the urban planning department sent out a department-wide e-mail informing the entire cohort of Carlisle/Wortman’s internship opportunity.  I remember receiving the e-mail and thinking this is it; this is the internship I had been waiting for.  It was an opportunity to finally gain exposure and experience in private consulting with a highly regarded urban planning firm.

Prior to attending graduate school, my work experience involved non-profit and public sector economic and community development work.  While in graduate school it was my intention to gain experience in private-sector planning. And by interning at Carlisle/Wortman, I was not only exposed to the consulting world, but fully immersed into a fantastic culture of planning professionals.

From the onset to the end of the internship I was tasked with challenging and fulfilling work.  Immediately I was given the task of crafting a zoning ordinance for an inner-ring suburban municipality.  Never before had I drafted an ordinance, and the thought of doing so was quite daunting and intimidating.  However, one of the Principal’s guided me through the process with a type of professionalism and expertise that I will take with me for the rest of my career.  To that extent, he allowed me to attend City Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, and write a second ordinance which reinforced what I learned previously.

In addition, I worked collaboratively with my fellow interns on a rural economic development study.  First, the guidance and reinforcement we received from one of the Associates was nothing less than extremely skillful and motivating.  I had done similar work for an inner-ring suburb as a public sector technician, but never as a private consultant. Through both the Associate’s guidance and the client, I learned how to assess and determine what exactly a client expects in a final deliverable.  Second, the opportunity to coordinate and manage a project amongst my peers was challenging; but nevertheless, it was a learning lesson in the collaborative process that is urban planning.

I also worked on a port area master plan amendment and zoning ordinance with the President of the company and the other interns.  His expertise and knowledge of planning and zoning is unsurpassed.  His pedagogy in explaining the process of amending a master plan was both thoughtful, easily understood, and invaluable from a burgeoning planners perspective.  In addition to his support and knowledge, I believe we provided the client with a crucial piece in actualizing the proposed development.  I take pride in knowing that the fruits of our labor could aid in guiding the success of the development and furthering the welfare of the community.

As a Master of Urban Planning student at the University of Michigan, it is not a required to do a summer internship. However, I believe my experience at Carlisle/Wortman will not only play a pivotal role in my career, but more immediately, will foster greater knowledge of the planning process lending itself to a more robust academic experience throughout my final year of planning school.

Eric Toumey