By Michael Carr
This summer, I am spending ten weeks as a Research Assistant Intern at Econsult Solutions Inc. through the Whitehead Internship Program. ESI is an economic consulting firm specializing in urban policy, transportation, real estate, development, and finance, providing services to a wide range of clients. In my four weeks so far, I’ve been put on a number of projects performing analysis, pulling and cleaning data, using ArcGIS software to make maps, and a variety of tasks in between.
These four weeks have been a lesson in multi-tasking and organization, as my duties as a research assistant include being flexible and helping on multiple projects at a time. It has been interesting to see the different types of projects – I’ve researched policy innovations in cities around the world, I’ve helped with market studies and economic impact studies, and soon I’ll have a hand in benefit-cost analyses for potential BUILD Grant applications.
As a Political Science and Growth & Structure of Cities double major, the work that I’m doing at ESI is closely aligned with my studies. In Professor Steve McGovern’s Urban Policy class this past spring, we discussed BUILD Grants during our unit on transportation policy. BUILD is a Department of Transportation discretionary grant program that rewards funding to build or improve transportation infrastructure. ESI provides BUILD applicants assistance with their applications, including performing a benefit-cost analysis of the proposed BUILD project. Having learned about this policy in the classroom, it is interesting to see all the work that goes into BUILD Grants and how these transportation projects come to fruition.
While being an intern at ESI is a good amount of hands-on work, it has still been a lot of fun. ESI’s office is centrally located in Center City Philadelphia, close to lots of stores, restaurants and Rittenhouse Park. There is plenty to do on a lunch break or after work. Also, along with the rest of the staff, there is a solid group of interns that I get to work with this summer, which is not only extremely helpful but also makes the experience enjoyable. From the principals to the directors to the analysts, everyone is willing to help out on different tasks and teach different skills. I’ve had really informative sessions with analysts – later this week I’ll have my first session on R.
Altogether, I’m not yet halfway through my time at ESI, but I have learned a lot. Being on so many projects gives me a taste of so many different fields and makes the workday fly by. The experience has also been highly informative about what a career in consulting might look like. It has been exciting to work in a fast-paced environment and be part of a consulting team while picking up important skills along the way. As a Poli Sci and Cities major, I almost didn’t apply to Econsult because I thought I did not have a strong enough background in economics; needless to say I’m happy I did – it has been a worthwhile experience. If you want a rewarding research experience that challenges you to think critically and work efficiently, I’d recommend ESI.