2014 PFIG Recipient Sarah Hill

Career Administrator

Sarah Hill
Engineering
Systems Engineering
2015 Graduation Year

Internship: The Prince's Regeneration Trust in London, England.

Notes on the first week

This summer I am one of three interns at the Prince’s Regeneration Trust (PRT). PRT is one of nineteen charities founded by HRH Prince Charles and is located in London, just down the road from Buckingham Palace. It was founded in 1996 to help restore at-risk locally important historic buildings across the United Kingdom. It has since grown and now has more of a focus on helping areas in economically deprived parts of the country.  Prince Charles is interested in sustainable environmental practices as well, so the renovation of the buildings is done in a way that is both sympathetic to historical building practices and environmentally friendly. PRT has recently launched a new program called BRICK (Building Resources, Investment and Community Knowledge). The BRICK program consists of five main components: mentoring, workshops, conferences, mediation between developers and heritage-focused community groups, and an online digital platform. The aim of the BRICK program is to expand the reach of PRT’s expertise and knowledge to community groups across the U.K. so that more historic buildings can be preserved.

My role at PRT is as an evaluation and digital intern. While PRT has done evaluation in the past, they are looking for more numerical data to prove the impact of their work, which is critical in order to secure funding. Since the BRICK program is new, I will also be helping to evaluate its impact and reach, as well as work on the database for the digital platform. I am really excited for this role because it is directly applicable to what I do in systems engineering. This experience also helps differentiate me from my peers, as students from the engineering school rarely seek service and non-profit oriented internships and careers.

Some of my task-oriented goals for the summer will be to work with the PRT team to develop key measurements of success for each site/project, help identify statistical evidence to prove the impact of these projects, define on-going ways for the PRT team to update the reports after I leave in an easy-to-follow manner, and document processes for considering future projects.

I have been in communication with Professor Michael Smith from the U.Va. Systems Engineering department about my work, and he really seems to find it fascinating as well. In fact, he has asked me to put together a case based on my work at PRT for the SYS2001 (Introduction to Systems) students in the fall. He feels this would be good for the students because my work deals with multiple objectives, different stakeholders, and lots of data.

So far I have been trying to learn about all the work that has been done at the different building sites and reading through documents on BRICK to familiarize myself with everything.  I am really excited to do some analysis on these projects because I have a vested interest in them, and I think that this organization does such great work benefitting communities and the environment.

Looking at the rest of the summer, I have three main goals in mind that I would like to achieve. First, I would like to learn as much as I can about how the non-profit works. PRT is nice in that it is a small organization, so I feel like I can get to know everyone. I even regularly sit in on meetings with the Chief Executive, so I am able to see higher-level aspects of the organization as well. I’d obviously like to help out in whatever aspects I can, but I think it would be nice to help people from different departments, so that I can gain insight into as many aspects of the organization as possible. Second, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to experience the U.K. and see some of the projects in person. In late June I will visit Stoke-on-Trent for the grand opening of Middleport Pottery (with Prince Charles opening the pottery), and I will visit Old Duchy Palace in Cornwall later in the summer as well as part of the evaluation process. However, I’d like to visit some of the other PRT project sites around the U.K. as well while I am here. Third, I’d like to improve my writing skills. I don’t get much practice in the engineering school, but I will be writing reports for evaluation here. I think that this is a critical skill to have, so I hope that I can further refine my writing skills.

Professionally, I think that this will be a great experience because it gives me experience in two areas that are not emphasized in the U.Va. Engineering school: immersing myself into another culture (even if it isn’t all that different from American!) and working for a non-profit.

I am truly looking forward to seeing what this summer has in store!

Midway

My internship at the Prince’s Regeneration Trust has provided me with many unique opportunities. One of the most exciting tasks that I have helped out with was the royal opening of Middleport Pottery on the 24th of June. PRT bought Middleport Pottery in 2011 and led the 3 year restoration process of the set of buildings. The building itself is the last remaining Victorian pottery buildings where they still practice traditional pottery methods. It’s really important to Prince Charles to preserve the traditional methods and skills for the craft. I found it interesting that the biggest buyer of Burleigh pottery (which is made in Middleport Pottery) is Colonial Williamsburg. I’ve also seen it sold at the Victoria & Albert Museum and Harrods—which speaks to the artisanal quality of each piece.

Because it was such a big event, I just helped out wherever I was needed. My tasks varied from managing the car park, to bringing photographers to a “fixed point” for a picture of HRH to organizing gift bags, to usher people to where they needed to be based on their donor group category. Because it was such a busy schedule, I was not able to meet him personally, but I was able to stand within ten feet of him while he made his speech—such a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Both before the opening and after, I conducted internal interviews of the Prince’s Regeneration Trust staff that were involved in the Middleport Pottery project with regards to the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from the project. I really enjoyed this because it gave me great insight into how they operate as an organization, and it really felt like system-level work and applicable to my major.

I had been helping come up with evaluation criteria and questionnaires for the BRICK program from the beginning of my internship, but July was the first time I had the opportunity to attend and help carry out a workshop. We hosted the workshop in the southwest region of the country in a coastal town called Plymouth. It certainly gave me context as to how difficult it is to get participants to respond to the surveys that we ask them to do.  Additional insights into how an event like this would run include—difficulty of getting quality speakers to show up and be relevant to audience. I’m not used to thinking in the way that is required for non-profit work, so this experience has given me a new appreciation for their work.

After the workshop, I worked on data analysis of the evaluation surveys to get a feel for how successful it was in terms of learning objectives and how people rated the overall experience. The BRICK team then got together to go over what went well and what challenges we faced.  Inspired by documentation we do with the Society of Women Engineers at UVA, I suggested we make a document for tips on hosting a successful workshop so that the next person in my role will be able to learn from past workshops. I worked on this alongside two other interns, and I think that this will prove to be helpful as all of us leave in the next couple of months.

The internship is much less focused on digital aspects than I had anticipated, but I feel like I am still using many systems skills, and learning loads. I hope in the second half of my internship to finish all of the projects I have worked on—BRICK evaluation, Middleport Pottery Evaluation, and Old Duchy Palace evaluation. I also hope to continue honing my writing and communication skills and ensuring that my work is clear enough and easy to follow for anyone who fills my position afterward.

Final Reflections

My summer at The Prince’s Regeneration Trust in London flew by. It was an incredible learning experience, and I am so grateful for the UVA Parents’ Committee for making the opportunity economically feasible for me.

I accomplished several main deliverables for the end of the summer. One of these was compiling all of the BRICK (Building Resources, Investment, and Community Knowledge) evaluation data and putting together a document to explain how it works and steps for the next intern to complete. I had to make sure everything that I had worked on dealing with this program would be clear to someone who didn’t have the same analytic background and experience with Excel that I have. I also needed to make sure the documentation would be clear for the person who works on funding forms, so that she could describe the impact of the program in invoices she provides to funders to collect money for the project. I also completed the evaluation for the most recent workshop and made sure everything was consistent across all three workshops.

My second main accomplishment for the end of my internship was putting together a summary document of the team’s accomplishments and challenges with respect to their most recent project, Middleport Pottery. I conducted interviews of the people in the office who worked on the Middleport Pottery project, and I compiled a report that would be an overview of what everyone thought were the key successes, challenges, skills learned, how it could be applied to other places, and top tips offered. I then put together a PowerPoint of the findings to be presented at the next team meeting. The slides end with an interactive component to engage everyone at the team meeting to edit or add onto the “top tips” section. Coming up with these top tips is an iterative process, so I compiled an initial list based on what people had suggested in interviews. At the team meeting they’ll go over all of the top tips that I came up with from their suggestions and they could edit through and put together as a group what they would consider the top tips to be. The most important aspect about this for me was that I wanted it to be usable in the future: this meant developing a concise and quick-to-read format.

Finally, pending approval from The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, I have worked with Professor Michael Smith from the Systems Engineering department at UVA to develop a case for second year systems students. I consulted with him throughout the summer, and we decided to create a case study based on multiple objectives of the organization. I’m excited because our case studies in my classes have often been profit driven, so it will be nice to show the students how systems skills can be applied to non-profit work as well.

For my personal growth it was a significant growing experience just living in another country on my own. I found it interesting to be the foreigner because it gave me a deeper appreciation for people who come to the US from other countries. I had to learn some of the governmental terms that they use routinely. The learning curve in getting used to some of their vernacular was more than I had anticipated. Also without a working phone, I felt like I became more independent and learned to handle things more on my own. It was a different experience from my study abroad J-term class as well because I was much more immersed in the London culture. When I did my J-term class, I felt like I was basically just interacting with other Americans (mainly from UVA). In this experience, on the other hand, I hardly knew any Americans and mainly interacted with locals.

Professionally I feel that I’ve grown this summer for multiple reasons. I’ve become more confident in asking questions, more independent in my work, have a better understanding of a different market, and have international work experience. In school I normally work on projects with groups of four or five other people with the same (systems engineering) background, but during my internship I was the only person with my background, so it took a bit more convincing to get my ideas across. We also typically work on US based projects in the private sector, so working for a non-profit in the UK gave me great experience working for a different kind of organization with completely different stakeholders. Companies and organizations often look for people who can work well with people from different backgrounds and I think that this experience has certainly allowed me that opportunity.

From this internship, I have learned that I would be open to working abroad in the future. I found the work I was doing to be rewarding and I would love to contribute to non-profit work. I’m not sure that I will pursue a career in a non-profit immediately after graduation, but I would like to come back to it later in my career. It was nice to be around people who appreciated art and architecture because those fields aren’t the main focus of my major but are passions of mine. I’ve made great friends with those whom I know I’ll be in touch for years to come.

Again, words cannot express my gratitude for the UVA Parents’ Fund for awarding me this opportunity.