Caroline Weston (M.R.P. ’21) is spending her summer in Cleveland, Ohio, interning for University Circle Inc (UCI). UCI serves as the community service corporation for the University Circle neighborhood, located east of Downtown Cleveland.
“I was attracted to UCI because it services a diverse community while, at the same time, housing large institutions such as the Cleveland Mayo Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.” she shared.
As a Planning and Development Intern, Caroline is assisting in several projects for UCI, including a unique challenge in addressing the potential digital divide exerted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “I am currently working on a project that is characterizing the broadband access and digital device needs of residents in the area. The sudden shutdown of life as we knew it brought to light the systemic digital divide that exists among the residents of University Circle. Without internet access via broadband, a device, or even digital literacy where internet is available, digitally needy communities will face lasting impacts which will persist in the long-term.”
UCI and other local organizations have begun to assess residents who do not have internet access and cannot be surveyed in-person during the pandemic. Caroline is also engaging in meetings with different members of the communities representing non-profit organizations to institutional leaders to find effective approaches to leverage their expertise and resources to address barriers that are perpetuating the digital divide.
Despite the unconventional situation for UCI, Caroline feels the experience has been enriching her interests in the planning field. “I am excited to continue this research on the digital divide for my exit project. The Cornell network in Cleveland, and really the larger Cleveland community has been tremendously welcoming and generous with their insight and resources.”
Before attending Cornell, Caroline spent several years working as a Project Manager for David J. Powers & Associates, Inc., an environmental planning consulting firm based in California. She was awarded the AEP Outstanding Environmental Analysis Award in 2018 for her team’s report on the Silicon Valley Clean Water Wastewater Conveyance System and Treatment Plant Reliability Improvement projects. She received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning from the University of California, Davis.