Parks and Recreation (and Research, Too)

Ezgi Ozcelik
Ezgi Ozcelik

Political science graduate student Ezgi Ozcelik engaged in a summer research assistantship with the St. Anthony Park Community Council. Tasked with collecting and analyzing data on the neighborhood’s use of a public park, Ozcelik had the opportunity to develop her research skills while working out in the community. She says the experience “enabled me to explore what I enjoy at my job as a researcher and introduced me to conducting research for the community.”

What were your responsibilities? What projects did you work on?

I worked on a summer research project for the St. Anthony Park Community Council. UMN's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) hired me for this position. CURA supported me really well throughout the research, but I primarily worked with my supervisors at the Community Council during the summer.

My top three job responsibilities were designing an original survey about how a public park in the neighborhood has been used, making sure a representative group of community members took the survey, and analyzing survey data and presenting the findings to the council.

I also organized a community event at the park and got more in-depth feedback about the park through interactive activities.

The main challenge of the project was making sure we reached out to different groups in the community. In terms of what went well, I worked with the council members in harmony and was able to integrate their feedback continuously. Thanks to this project, I feel more confident about my teamwork and communication skills.

Through this project, I got more comfortable with designing and implementing a survey using Qualtrics [a data-collection software] and visualizing data for non-academic audiences.

As we planned for the community event, I learned about various interactive data collection techniques and found them very useful for drawing the community into conversation. These techniques are not commonly used within my field of work in academia.

How did you find your internship? What tips do you have for others seeking similar opportunities?

I found this position through the UMN's Office of Human Resources website. I was looking for a graduate student assistantship that would enable me to work with a non-academic team or in a setting that was a bit out of my comfort zone. In the end, this research assistantship position provided me with a very meaningful, community-based research experience and was also useful for me to understand the value of my technical skills beyond academia.

What are your top takeaways from your internship experience?

This internship helped me understand how it may feel to work as a researcher in a team setting with different stakeholders. I am grateful for this whole process, both working on the project itself but also the CLA Internship Program that went on throughout the academic year.

Thanks to the CLA Graduate Internship Program and the summer assistantship position, I feel more confident that the skills that I have acquired during the PhD program have practical and direct value outside of academia. Lastly, this experience also enabled me to explore the aspects of my job that I enjoy the most. It was very pleasant to conduct research that can have a direct and visible impact on a busy public space.

This story was edited by an undergraduate student in CLA.

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