Business Center

Process Improving for a Future in Planning

By Shalice (Shay) Reilly, Intern for the Office of Process Improvement

January 9th, 2019

As I was packing up my apartment to return to Ohio and complete the last of my classes towards a bachelor’s of Urban and Regional Planning, I reflected on the last four times I had returned to Cincinnati.

At the University of Cincinnati (UC), many fields of study have an alternative format for collegiate careers; students are required to find full-time internships in lieu of classes for a number of semesters. The University refers to this as the ‘CO-OP program’. For UC’s Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning degree, students are required to complete five semesters of full-time internships, which take place every other semester starting sophomore year.

Shalice Reilly

This spring will be my final semester of classes before graduation, making the time spent interning for the Office of Process Improvement at Colorado’s Department of Transportation the last of my five internships.

My previous experiences were in a variety of city planning fields. For my first internship, I worked for the City of Muskegon in their Planning Department. Next, I worked as an intern for a nonprofit neighborhood economic development group, CHCURC. This internship will lead to a part-time position with CHCURC as their Planning and Design Coordinator, while I continued my classes at the University of Cincinnati. In the summer of 2017, I ended my time with CHCURC in order to pursue an opportunity to intern for an architecture firm, RJT+R, based in Atlanta, Georgia. During the spring semester of 2018, I worked for Ohio University’s Planning Office.

My main goal through these internships has been to expand my horizons and explore potential career paths related to planning. Above all else, I hoped that if I had a variety of work experiences, I would be able to apply to a larger selection of job types, and eventually be able to find a permanent position where I am able to improve the lives of others, while also being challenged to continually grow as an individual.

When beginning the search for my final internship, I knew I wanted to focus on cities in the Western United States. Throughout my studies, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) was often mentioned for their environmentally-conscious and innovative contributions to the transportation planning profession. When I saw that I would be working alongside a group of people specifically focused on managing change and fostering continuous improvement within the department, I was incredibly excited about the potential of this position, and applied right away.

As I played Tetris with the bags of clothes in the trunk of my car, I reflected on what exactly set this internship apart from my previous ones. After some contemplation, I decided that it wasn’t just getting to live in the beautiful city of Denver, or the relationships I built with the fellow interns in my office that has made the past four months so impactful for me – although those factors certainly made the experience more enjoyable!

I realized that the true key to my professional growth in the past four months was due to the exceptional leadership from Gary Vansuch, Geneva Hooten, and Michelle Malloy. While I have had great mentors in my past internships, the guidance from these three individuals allowed me to raise my expectations for future supervisors and for myself. While I have never had any problem with taking on leadership roles in my classes or professional career, I had never truly known what it meant to be a great leader before this internship.

While working in the Office of Process Improvement, I was constantly challenged to improve my everyday ways of thinking. I believe it was this mindset that allowed me to achieve one of the highest volumes of work than any of my previous internships. It encouraged me to become comfortable with not only thinking outside of the box, but with running with my ideas to see where they may lead. I became less fearful of trying to implement something and being wrong, and more excited about exploring any number of possible solutions until I found something that worked. Beyond that, I learned through example that great leaders do not just encourage others to continuously improve, but are also open to any and all ideas for improvement, and willing to support their team in implementing those improvements.

I was also treated with an entirely new type of respect than I ever had before. The leadership provided by my supervisors at CDOT encouraged me to take on many new and exciting responsibilities, while still making it evident that I had the resources of support when I needed it – and proving so whenever I did turn to them for help. This environment allowed me to build confidence in my abilities, and even explore new ones.

I am proud to say that I am leaving this internship with many new skill sets, great professional connections, and fulfilling new friendships. I am incredibly thankful for the mentorship I received from both my peers and supervisors in the past four months, and am excited to see where these new skills and lessons will lead me come my graduation in the spring.