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Student Uses Passion to Impact Local Government at Summer Internship

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Stephen Rabent

Stephen Rabent, current student at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy arranged his internship with the City of Takoma Park’s Public Works Department through the Maryland Municipal League’s Fellowship Program. On top of having an internship related to his career goals, Rabent also benefitted from having his internship funded by the School of Public Policy Internship Program.

“I am planning to pursue a career evaluating programs and policy, with a focus in fiscal analysis and environmental considerations,” Rabent says. “Furthermore, I want a career where I can see the demonstrable impact my work has. Working in Takoma Park has exposed me to all of these things already in the short time that I have been there. Not only am I gaining practical skills, I am creating real deliverables that are having an impact in the city.”

Rabent says he’s learning more about environmental policies at Takoma Park. “One of the most interesting things going on in Takoma Park is the installation of “green streets,” which are a new, more environmental way of thinking about how we manage stormwater,” he says. “Being new to the Chesapeake region, I have learned a tremendous amount about stormwater, run-off and how much the Bay is impacted by policies and decisions made upstream.”

“The city of Takoma Park has really been on the forefront of green and sustainable initiatives,” Rabent says. “From collecting food waste to stormwater management, they are a leading example of how small municipalities can make a large impact through local government policies.”

Having real-world experience with implementing and evaluating policy, and deliverables to back it up, will give me invaluable experience and skills I can build on.
Stephen Rabent SPP Student

A good internship provides students with valuable real-world skills and experiences that can be used later in their careers, in addition to teaching them how to work on a team. “My supervisor assigned me to a large project with a broad directive and allowed me to make it my own, aligning it with my skills and interests,” Rabent says. “For me, that has encompassed everything from background research, the preparation of a presentation and cost analyses. Every few days I will help out on another project for her or a colleague who could use some extra assistance. That is one of the things I love about working in such a small office, you get to learn about so many different projects outside of your own interests and learn new skills. With limited resources and personnel, you are forced outside of your niche to help wherever you are needed.”

He added that he’s been using his skills to take on a variety of tasks during his internship both inside and outside of the office. “One memorable morning, I spent the morning doing survey work with our construction manager to plot elevations and collect GIS data for design plans for a new dog park,” Rabent says. “Trampling through the underbrush in a shirt and tie is no easy feat, but it’s all a part of the ‘all hands on deck’ approach in local government!”

“So far I have been able to involve myself in a whole range of initiatives, each of which is interesting in its own way,” Rabent says. “I have to say that my work on implementing the city’s ban on polystyrene is my favorite. I have really been able to apply my skills to implement a brand new policy for the city.”

Rabent notes that his courses in public budgeting with Senior Associate Dean and Professor Philip Joyceand political analysis with Professor Christopher Foreman have been directly applicable to his work in Takoma Park. “Being familiar with different costs, how governments finance projects and budgeting concepts has been invaluable to understanding how our department actually functions and implements policy from the city council,” he says. “Furthermore, the clear and concise writing style taught and used in Professor Foreman’s course is the type of writing that I use for short memos all the time.”

“My favorite thing by far is knowing that the work I am doing is having a real impact in Takoma Park, and even outside the city boundaries,” Rabent says. “I know that I am developing skills that can be applied to jobs in program analysis and evaluation in any sector that I end up in. Having real-world experience with implementing and evaluating policy, and deliverables to back it up, will give me invaluable experience and skills I can build on in my final year at school.”

For Media Inquiries:
Megan Campbell
Senior Director of Strategic Communications
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