Karrie Black (MPA '12)
A series of events beginning with taking the Geographic Information Systems course at GSPIA, led to my internship at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (“Food Bank”). Using the knowledge gained in my GIS course, I created maps for my Capstone course that showed the pockets of poverty in southwestern Pennsylvania in relation to the locations of the Food Bank member food pantries. After the Capstone final presentation, I was able to talk with an audience member who is the Advocacy Projects Coordinator for the Food Bank. She was interested in GIS mapping for the organization, and I was interested in an internship with the Food Bank.
As the Government Relations and Advocacy intern for the summer (2011), the bulk of my work consisted of creating a brochure for each legislative member in Allegheny County. The goal was to enhance legislative members’ understanding of poverty by pairing poverty statistics with a poverty map for their respective district. Using ArcGIS, I created 155 maps to be inserted into the brochures (five maps per brochure) and used these to create the brochure template to be used by the Food Bank after my departure.
Also during my internship, I was fortunate enough to be a part of two major events at the Food Bank, one of which was assisting with meetings for The Southwestern Pennsylvania Food Security Partnership (“Partnership”). The Partnership is a recent initiative of the Food Bank with the goal of significantly reducing hunger in the next five years. The research and analytical skills I gained through my coursework at GSPIA allowed me to assist the Partnership not only in discussions but also behind the scenes helping to collect and analyze poverty data. My ArcGIS skills again proved useful when I was asked to create maps displaying Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps) retail locations throughout Allegheny County to educate Partnership members and to help make decisions during meetings. This experience ultimately led me to become a Partnership member, where my GSPIA skills continue to aid me at meetings.
The second event was that the Food Bank’s co-founder and CEO of 30 years was retiring, and the organization was in the final stages of finding a replacement. During my internship the new CEO was chosen and although he had previous experience managing a large food bank, it was in another state and he had the 30-year reputation of the Pittsburgh Food Bank to maintain. This scenario had been the topic of discussion in many of my GSPIA management courses, so it was exciting and enlightening to see how the Food Bank staff, the new CEO and retiring CEO dealt with the transition as, unlike in the classroom, their actions would have real consequences. Overall my GSPIA career helped me obtain and achieve success in my internship, and continues to aid me in the endeavors that carried over from my internship.