After a remarkably transformative first year at Whitman, I simply wasn’t ready to leave the beautiful Walla Walla Valley that had become my home. Anxious for a reason to stay, I began combing through Handshake, a useful online portal similar to LinkedIn that connects students to employers, for a local opportunity that might align with my academic interests. However, it was at a job fair Whitman was hosting in the Young Ballroom at Reid Campus Center that I became enticed by a city planning opportunity with the Development Services Department at the City of Walla Walla. I was shocked to learn that downtown Walla Walla had not been established as a National Historic District given the region’s historical significance, and I became excited by the possibility to become involved in the efforts to make it so. The news that my internship would be unpaid didn’t deter me, as I knew that the Whitman Student Engagement Center had assisted hundreds of scholars like myself with financial support through their Whitman Internship Grant.
My primary project at the moment pertains to preliminary research about the long-term feasibility of a potential extended Mill Creek Trail. This has required me to obtain information as to who owns what property along the trail using complex digital mapping software and accessing records online. Additionally, I’ve been spending time accessing records in the county assessor’s office at the courthouse. This building used to serve as the county jail, and the room I’ve been spending the most time in was a cell. Blending in with the filing cabinets and fax machines is what used to be a sink and a shower stall, as well as a hole in the floor where piping for a toilet used to be. The window is barred, and the conventional jail cell door is now used to safely secure the records after hours.
When I finish gathering all the information at the courthouse, I will resume research to inform Walla Walla’s 2018 comprehensive plan. This research has so far taught me more than I thought there was to know about city planning, and it feels satisfying knowing that the planners will take the conclusions I draw into consideration to impact the next twenty years of the city’s operations. I also still look forward to contributing to the project that intrigued me in the first place—the establishment of Downtown Walla Walla as a National Historic District.
It will most likely be long after my internship is complete that I see the end results of my work come to fruition, but in the meantime, it has been interesting to learn about a career trajectory I hadn’t ever previously considered. While I intend to major in Economics, I am still unsure what I want to be “when I grow up,” and one of the biggest reasons I chose Whitman are the opportunities (such as the Whitman Internship Grant) it can afford me to discover my passions.
Experiences like Jakob’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff