Undergraduate Research Internship Explores Impact of City Budgets and Spending in Local Community 


Devon McSurley (Applied Agricultural Economics; Crown Point, IN) spent her summer as an undergraduate research internship for Purdue Extension, more specifically with the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development.  At the center, they are currently researching food deserts within Michigan City, IN and possible solutions to help community members in accessing more nutrient dense foods.  

Devon chose to do this particular summer internship because of her particular interest in a career in economic development research since high school. "I learned about the internship through an email from Andy Oppy. Initially I had applied and interviewed for another research position, then was later offered a position for a different project." 

For her initial interview, Devon was required to send a copy of her resume, while waiting to hear back from the Purdue Extension to see if she had qualified for an interview. Following through with the interview process, it was a zoom meeting with Devon and a few supervisors. "They had essentially asked about my experience with research, data interpretation, along with my goals and ambitions post undergrad." 

Located in Michigan City, IN, Devon has held the official title of Undergraduate Research Intern. While there is a physical office, a majority of her internship has been completed in a remote capacity. "Covid has had a big impact on my internship, as Michigan City remains in a high covid levels, it has prevented me from going into the economic development center in the city as often as I would like. Additionally, nearly all of our meetings have been on zoom." 

While a majority of her position has been remote, Devon has still been responsible for many aspects of the research project. "With my position, I am responsible for collaborating with others to help create surveys and focus group questions. Furthermore, I assist in focus groups by attending the meetings, following with taking the answers and analyzing the data. I will be able to take the data from the surveys and focus groups to interpret the data to advise a solution." 

One interesting thing Devon has learned through her internship is the impact of city budgets on spending in a community. Further, the experience she has gained through this internship has been meaningful towards her future career. "I have been able to interact with professionals, engage in supervising focus groups, analyze, and interpret data. I am most thankful for the environment of the internship, where it is very open, and I can express my thoughts and am provided guidance when I need it."