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My Semester at City Hall

Northeastern University’s co-op program provides students the opportunity to alternate semesters of academic study with periods of full-time work; students are able to transform work across academic and professional contexts.

Photo of four Northeastern University Co-ops in City Hall
Northeastern University Co-ops Olivia, Colin, Asher, and Madelyn

My name is Maddie Wozniak, and I am an incoming senior at Northeastern University. I recently concluded the final weeks of my co-op with Boston 311. Northeastern University’s co-op program provides students the opportunity to alternate semesters of academic study with periods of full-time work; students are able to transform work across academic and professional contexts. Co-op provides students the opportunity to explore or refine potential career paths, make valuable industry connections, broaden perspectives, and acquire the skills and knowledge needed to succeed —all while learning and growing outside the comfort zone of the classroom. As a Politics, Philosophy, and Economics major with a minor in Business Administration, I sought an in-person, hands-on, and impactful experience for my final co-op.

When applying to Boston 311, I anticipated engaging with constituents on local issues, participating in community events, and analyzing data to enhance the city's service to diverse Boston communities. As a Mayor's Constituent Advocate, I have fulfilled these responsibilities and had the opportunity to collaborate with various departments within the Community Engagement Cabinet, including the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and the Office of Civic Organizing. My work has not only been fulfilling for me personally, but I feel it has also made a tangible difference in the lives of our constituents.

During the first three weeks of the co-op, Irgi Budo and Meaghan Towle, the Director and Deputy Director of 311, focused on training co-ops to become Boston 311 call takers. During this period, my fellow co-ops and I gained insights into the functions of various City departments, the distinct cultures within each neighborhood, and the process of creating cases based on constituents' concerns. Once we became proficient in interacting with constituents over the phone, we focused on the mayor’s principle of "Getting City Hall out of City Hall," engaging with community members at various resource fairs, the Mayor's Coffee Hours, and programming like Walk the Beat with the North End liaison Ciara D'Amico and the Boston Police Department.

While all co-ops shared a common experience within the 311 department, we were each assigned individual projects throughout our time at City Hall. My primary projects were with the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services under our Community Engagement Cabinet’s Director of Communications, Nakia Hill, and her assistant, Digital Communications Specialist Ciara Lanman. Each Monday, I began my week reading local news to inform the Community Engagement Cabinet of what was happening in the city. Nakia and Ciara trusted me to create flyers and graphics for specific community events or essential outreach material. I also attended press meetings, collaborated with the team, and drafted neighborhood liaisons newsletters, which you can subscribe to here.

I reviewed all Neighborhood Hero nominations and helped select our first neighborhood hero, Roslindale resident Meri Bond, who was recognized in March. Learning about Meri and others' contributions to their community was truly inspiring. 

During Women's History Month, I collaborated with the women of the Community Engagement Cabinet to highlight their stories and perspectives. I drafted questions, created a graphic to feature them, and crafted their responses into an article, which you can read here.

I spoke with the other co-ops about their experiences over the past few months to provide insight into the diverse opportunities and experiences working at City Hall offers:

"Throughout my co-op at 311, I have been able to learn so much about how the City of Boston functions. As a college student in Boston, working with the Community Engagement Cabinet has provided knowledge and resources that I plan on utilizing as long as I'm living in the city. Irgi and Meaghan have been great role models for us, making clear the results of great leadership and work ethic. I am so grateful to have such great bosses for my first co-op and will always be grateful for this experience!"  -Olivia Terry, Boston 311 Co-op

"I have been working closely with the green infrastructure department: attending policy meetings, installing green infrastructure around Boston, and performing other tasks to ensure Boston stays clean. The experience has been very rewarding, and it feels good to know you are making a positive difference in the world for a better future." -Colin McAndrew, Boston 311 Co-op

​​"This co-op has allowed me to gain a better understanding of the rich culture of Boston through interactions with constituents and going to parts of the city I would not have normally ventured to. It has also shown me what a potential future in government would look like and allowed me to orient my future plans accordingly. I am grateful to have bosses who have allowed me to grow my knowledge and many skills throughout this amazing experience." -Asher Leveen, Boston 311 Co-op

My co-op experience with Boston 311 and the entire Community Engagement Cabinet has provided me with numerous skills that I will carry into my final semesters at Northeastern and beyond. Gaining regulatory knowledge regarding Boston's local laws, regulations, and compliance requirements has given me a new perspective on being a student in Boston and the importance of understanding the city's services. Additionally, I have strengthened my project management, public policy, and community engagement skills by evaluating our cabinet's performance and interacting with constituents from diverse backgrounds over the past few months. I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity and the invaluable experiences it has afforded me.

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