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Environmental Studies Major Educates Community About Healthy Living at Somerset Development

After networking with Dickinson faculty, Thomas Riordan '20 found himself at Somerset Development as a manager of community gardens, where he helps educate and encourage the community.

Thomas Riordan '20, Somerset Development


Environmental studies, policy management

Internship title:

Manager of community gardens.

How I got this internship:

My first year, Nancy Hooff '75 and Jim Campbell visited [Assistant] Professor [of Environmental Studies Heather] Bedi’s environmental and social justice course. They spoke about Somerset Development and their sustainable and socially equitable practices, and it stuck with me. Sophomore year, I contacted Nancy and explained how much of an impression they had made on me. I asked to conduct an informational interview to learn more about Somerset, and after my visit, Nancy extended an offer for an internship dealing with food security issues in D.C. and the community gardens at each of Somerset’s properties.

What I do, day to day:

My day-to-day work varies. I am in the office about two days a week, organizing with property managers for garden events and needs. Most days, however, I travel between Somerset’s eight properties spread throughout D.C. and one in Baltimore that each have community gardens. I work with kids’ summer programs or adult residents, helping them to understand and maintain the garden and how to get the most out of it, all while encouraging the importance of fresh and healthy food.

Most valuable part of this experience:

The most valuable aspect of my internship this summer was the amount of independence I was given. No one micro-managed me and dictated my every step. I had to make many of my own decisions, although I always had incredibly helpful and kind supervisors and coworkers I could turn to if I really needed it. Through the independence I was given, I could shape and design what my projects looked like, dictate my own time and take ownership of what I was doing. It felt like I was really contributing to the company and not just doing filler work. This shaped my experience better than anything else could have.

Advice for students considering internships:

Anyone who is considering an internship should pursue one. However, do not land on one just because it pops up or because it fills your summer. Find a company or place that matches your ideals and goals maybe even outside your comfort zone. Try to connect content learned from Dickinson to finding an internship; that way, the most can be gained from the experience.

How this internship has helped me:

This internship has given me a new set of goals to strive for. With a taste of the working world, I now have a new appreciation for the opportunities I have at Dickinson, and how they can better prepare me for the world. I have gained communication skills, task-management skills and confidence in myself from this internship that will no doubt carry over to my next year at Dickinson and help me grow as a student.

Post-Dickinson plans:

I plan on getting a master’s degree in urban planning after Dickinson and put my skills to work for a company similar to Somerset. I hope to be able to take all that I have and will learn and turn it into a successful career developing sustainable and equitable communities. Above all I want to gain the resources and knowledge in order to help people live in safe, sustainable and healthy communities.

Riordan's internship experience is supported by a Dickinson internship grant. Learn more about internships at Dickinson.


Published August 21, 2018