A Big Welcome to Our Gerhardt and Duke Engage Interns!

Sam Diaz

Sam Diaz recently sat down with Allison Giffin and Jerry Chia-Rui Chang to get an inside scoop on this year’s Gerhardt and Duke Engage Interns. 

The Paul Gerhardt Jr. Internship

Before I introduce our 2015 Gerhardt Intern, let me introduce Paul Gerhardt, Jr. Paul began working at 1000 Friends in 1981, taking the role of Senior Planner in 1982 at the age of 24. In the creation stages of Oregon’s land use system, Paul worked with colleagues to review plans to ensure that they adhered to state standards. Colleagues praised his incredible work ethic as well as his careful listening, kindness and compassion. In 1985, Paul passed away from melanoma. It was a major loss to his many friends, colleagues and supportive family. 

Paul’s work in improving and defending Oregon’s land use system continues, thanks to the generosity of his parents, Paul Sr. and Nancy. They established an endowed internship in his name, allowing other emerging land use advocates to become part of the 1000 Friends team. 

This year, Allison Giffin (A), joins the team. Sam Diaz (S) sits down with the recent Reed College Graduate. 

S: Thanks for sitting down with me! Can you share a little bit about where you grew up?

A: I grew up in Marin County, California. It’s located in the north bay… pretty close to San Francisco. It has some pretty bizarre forms of environmentalism.

S: What exactly do you mean by that?

A: Well, I won’t get too into it (because let me tell you I could), but what really struck me, especially when I started learning about and fearing climate change, was this robust culture of cycling, open space preservation, and sustainable food systems standing alongside some of the worst traffic congestion and extremely high rates of car ownership. A lot of people owned two or more cars. You really can’t get to most places in Marin without a car and there are stark divisions of class surrounding public transit use. 

S: Seems like your hometown affected how you think about community planning! How did you prepare?

A: I attended Reed College. There, I majored in Environmental Studies-economics because I was relatedly interested in dissecting what was to me a black box controlling who gets how much of which resources. After mounting frustration with the term “federal gridlock,” I turned to state and local policy, where there are fascinating cooperative regional and state level experiments in curbing carbon emissions and reducing social disparities. 

S: So how did this turn into a passion for ‘land use planning’?

A: I suppose it was inevitable, that the combination of going to college in Portland, studying environmental-studies economics, and wanting to fix problems occurring at the intersection of environmental stewardship and social justice lead me to discover the field of land use planning, and its incredible ability to address both.

S: And we’re happy that you did find land use planning and 1000 Friends! What will you be working on this summer?

A: This summer, I’m working on a comprehensive guide for municipalities in Oregon on how to use a Fiscal Impact Analysis to help determine whether a proposed development project will generate enough revenue to cover its long term service and maintenance costs, among other uses. It is a follow up to former Gerhardt intern Ted Sweeny’s work in 2012, where he reviewed the literature on infrastructure deficits and concluded that sprawling development costs local governments more over the long term than compact development. 

S: Wow. Sounds complicated! I’m a bit of a newbie to this, can you tell me why you think this is useful?

A: I’m excited about it because in addition to decreasing the need for costly and resource intensive infrastructure, compact development improves access to different modes transportation, which in turn reduces carbon emissions, and improves social mobility for people living on low incomes. FIA enables governments to visualize the benefits of compact development as it specifically pertains to their community.

S: Sounds like an exciting angle for advocacy! Now when you’re not working on this Fiscal Impact Analysis report, what are you most likely doing?

A: I’m either volunteering at Bus Riders Unite, rock climbing, cooking, talking about music, gardening, or looking for meaningful actions to help organize and attend! 


Duke Engage Program

While Allison works on the fiscal impact analysis due at the end of this summer, Jerry Chia-Rui Chang (J) joins the team to work on an issue arising out of Eugene, Oregon as the 2015 Duke Engage Intern. 

The Duke Engage Program serves as a pipeline between Duke University undergraduate students and environmental non-profits and governmental agencies in the Portland Metro area. 1000 Friends is a proud partner of the prestigious university’s program. This year, we are fortunate to have Jerry join the team! A Tapei, Taiwan native, Jerry’s focus in Computer Science and Statistical Science has helped stir up some new analysis in Eugene, Oregon. Find out more:

S: Glad to sit down and have you share your story with 1000 Friends’ membership! How are you liking Portland?

J: I like it a lot! I’m especially pleased to escape from the humidity in North Carolina and enjoy the wonderful weather in Portland. 

S: [Laughs] Yes, Portland does have nice weather. How did you choose the Portland Duke Engage program?

J: I was drawn to the issue of sustainability. Though my majors are not directly related to the environment, land use, or public policy, I have come to understand the significance of sustainability throughout my studies at Duke. During my freshman year, I took a class about food, agriculture and society. I learned about the relationship between agriculture and land use.

S: Sounds like a great class! What sorts of things did you learn?

J: There are three things that stick out in my mind. First, we discussed agricultural behavior’s impact on the natural environment and how inappropriate agricultural practices destroyed the sustainable land-use system. Second, I wrote about the fallacy of the modern agriculture system and analyzed the relationship between sustainability and industrialization and presented possible solutions to the unequal distribution of the food. Finally, I studied the social and environmental costs of shrimp industry and suggested both the public policy and consumer-side solutions.

S: Sounds like a wide scope of issues! What is your takeaway?

J: These experiences taught me that sustainability is substantial issue that cannot be ignored. 

S: Yes! How are you bringing this insight into your work at 1000 Friends?

J: I’m working on a project somewhat tied to the Eugene Urban Growth Boundary. There is a proposed area for more development in Eugene. I am especially excited to see how affordable housing might be incorporated into the sustainable development of Eugene. With my statistics background, I hope to use mathematical models l to provide an objective perspective on Eugene’s redevelopment.

S: Linking affordable housing to development and transit seems critical to achieving sustainability. How will this internship help you?

J: I believe this internship will be an invaluable experience for me as I aspire to combine technology and environmental related issues in my future career path.

To learn more about Jerry’s work, come join us at the Behind-the-Scenes in Eugene Event. RSVP here.