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For Students

CoLab offers a variety of opportunities for students to engage with real world problems through practice and study-- from informal gatherings, lectures, seminars, reading/study groups and courses, to academic year and summer internships, both paid and unpaid.

CoLab Radio, welcomes contributions from students around the world who are interested in sharing their stories of innovative projects and research in urban planning with an international audience dedicated to improving cities.

How CoLab has worked with students in the past

CoLab Supported Courses

Every year, CoLab supports one or more courses offered in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. CoLab staff support the course development and execution and connect enrolled students to community partners. CoLab is working to support at least one Practicum course each academic year, guiding students in reflective practice in the field and providing students opportunities to support social innovation in marginalized communities. Examples of CoLab supported courses include:

Fall 2013: “In This Building”: Multimedia and Collaborative Storytelling in Urban Planning

Course description: The purpose of this half-semester course is to produce media about life in cities. Each student will work in a small group to create a multimedia portrait of one multi-family residential building in Boston or Cambridge. The physical buildings, its history, the land under it, and the people who live inside will be considered as part of the story. Students should think of the subjects of their stories as media makers, too. We will design media collection strategies that enable building residents to document their own lives and neighborhoods. Students will prepare their final media deliverables with a general public audience in mind. This course will be taught in partnership with The Boston Globe.

Every person has a story worth hearing, an idea worth examining, and knowledge worth sharing. In that spirit, this course will be as participatory as possible for students and teachers both inside and outside of the classroom. By the end of the course, we will have published a record that enables anyone to replicate the experience. Portions of the course will be open to the public in real time.

Instructors: Prof J. Philip Thompson & Alexa Mills, Program Director, CoLab Media Projects
Time: Thursdays, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Dates: September 12 – October 24, plus a final presentation
Location: 9-415
Web link: http://dusp.mit.edu/subject/fall-2013-11s948

Fall 2013: 11.S944: The Theory of Participatory Action Research (PAR)

Course Description:  Introduction to the theory of action research and more generally to competing ideas about the uses of social research to promote social change.  Focus will be on the epistemological foundations for action research, knowledge generation in action research, the role of the “friendly outsider,” action science and organizational learning, participatory evaluation and arguments for and against phronetic social science.  Students will be expect to complete a careful analysis of actual PAR cases.

Faculty: Prof. Larry Susskind & Dayna Cunningham, Executive Director, CoLab
Dates: October 9th - November 13th
Web link: http://dusp.mit.edu/subject/fall-2013-11s944

Fall 2013: EC.716/EC.786(G): D-Lab Waste

Course Description: Waste provides a multi-disciplinary approach to managing waste in low-and–middle-income countries with strategies that diminish greenhouse gas emissions and provide enterprise opportunities for marginalized communities. The course, comprised of lectures, fieldtrips, and guest speakers, studies waste management strategies in cities in Africa, India, and Latin America.  It examines case studies of collection, recycling, and waste-to-energy businesses developed in low-income settings; and researches public policy that supports sustainable, integrated, solid waste management systems.  Student teams develop waste management strategies that culminate in a two-week IAP trip to Nicaragua where students will work with a local NGO and municipality, to assist in the implementation of waste management initiatives.

Instructor: Libby McDonald, Program Director, Global Sustainability Partnerships, CoLab
Time: Monday & Wednesday 10-11:30; Friday 2-4
Dates: Fall term (full)
Location: N51-310 (MW), 7-307 (F)
Web link: http://d-lab.mit.edu/courses/waste

Community Engagement Opportunities

Whenever possible, CoLab strives to connect students with community partners in the field where students can learn directly from the experience of community leaders and apply the knowledge, skills, and resources they have gained through their studies. These opportunities are dependent on funding availability and the needs and capacities of the center’s community partners. Opportunities take a variety of forms including:

  • Work-study internships with partner organizations, for example:
    • 2013 Community Labor United: Working Families in Greater Boston
    • 2013 OneVoice: Mississippi Transportation Infrastructure Project
    • 2013 City of Las Vegas: Green Economic Development
    • 2011 Tougaloo College: Sustainability Planning Project
    • 2009 Leveraging the Stimulus project
  • Ongoing project support
    • 2013 Developing Community Tourism Strategies in Castañer, Puerto Rico
    • 2013 Community Innovation Curriculum Development for the Bronx and the Pacific Region of Colombia
    • 2013 GIS Analysis of SEIU 1199 Bronx members
    • 2013 Asset mapping with Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition
    • 2013 Program development and coordinating Mel King Community Fellows - Labor and Worker Center Leaders
    • 2013 CoLab Radio Guest Editors; http://colabradio.mit.edu/category/greater-yield/
    • 2012-2013 Developing the BCDI Economic Democracy Training Series
    • 2012 Participatory Planning and Evaluation in San Juan, Puerto Rico
    • 2012 Assessing Community Interests among Immigrant Communities in Greater Boston
    • 2010 Greening Historically Black Colleges and Universities
    • 2009-2010 Emerald Cities Project consultation
  • IDEAS competition project teams. CoLab affiliated entries to the IDEAS competition have been relatively successful. Affiliated projects include:
    • 2011 Global Challenge Award: Maa Bara, a locally sourced aquaponics project ($10,000)
    • 2010 Ideas Competition Award: Grease Project, a project to reduce operational costs and increase income of wastepickers in Sao Paulo, while reducing the negative environmental impact of improper disposal of waste vegetable oil ($3,000)

Reading/Study Groups

CoLab uses study groups to help prepare for and expand the knowledge base and uncover innovative approaches for new areas of work. Participants read key articles and chapters, share individual projects and participate in weekly discussion. Participation in these groups is voluntary, but often acts as a stepping-stone to more extensive involvement in CoLab projects. Examples of past reading/study groups include:

  • Spring 2013: Water Management Study Group
  • Spring 2012: Capacity Building Study Group
  • 2009-2012 Energy Efficiency Strategy Project
  • 2010-2011 Cooperatives Study Group
  • 2010 Waste Management in Low Income Countries Study Group and IAP Residency in Nicaragua
  • 2009 Leveraging the Stimulus Study Group

CoLab Sponsored Workshops

CoLab staff members, students, research, and faculty affiliates organize one- or two-day workshops, generally during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January, to give students and others in the community additional training in reflective practice and values-based planning. Examples of past workshops include:

Thesis Research Support

CoLab values knowledge that is derived from direct community experiences and supports students who wish to use community partners’ experiences to advance positive change in urban areas. In addition, CoLab recognizes that the thesis writing experience can be very isolating and that our best ideas come from interaction with others. For this reason, CoLab hosts self-organized groups of students interested in exploring values of democracy, wealth creation and urban sustainability in their thesis research. In the past, this has manifested in biweekly sessions among small groups of thesis writers.

For more information, please email us at colab-info@mit.edu.

Current Opportunities

Hourly Employment Opportunities

Summer 2014

Data Visualization and Communications Work Study Opportunity

BACKGROUND:
Operation Paydirt is an artist-initiated project engaging children, families, communities and leaders to imagine and actualize a future free of lead poisoning.  Operation Paydirt is collaborating with MIT CoLab and regional and national lead poisoning prevention organizations to develop a national campaign against this compromise to public health.  Operation Paydirt’s innovative empathetic communications and engagement strategies will be deployed through city based initiatives, compelling communities and policy makers to take action for lead poisoning prevention.

POSITION DESCRIPTION:
This summer, Operation Paydirt is working with national organizations and city based partners to create a communications toolkit to make visible the invisible impact of lead poisoning and convey solutions on a home, regional, and national scale. Foundational to this effort will be the identification of evidence and data regarding the complex issue of lead poisoning and its systemic impact.

Research will focus on system-wide issues and will include collecting existing published materials as well as interviews with project partners and other stakeholders in public health, science, criminology, education, environment, housing, etc. Quantitative and qualitative information sets will be researched and mapping and visualization strategies will be developed to frame the facts, demonstrate accountabilities, and motivate and inspire change.

Operation Paydirt is offering a summer position to work directly with the artist, Mel Chin, Project Producers, and partnering non-profit organizations on developing the above listed project. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Co-developing a refined framework foundational for system-wide investigative research, including the problems, issues, and needs
  • Identifying existing lead poisoning related narratives, datasets and maps and conducting interviews to identify what knowledge, perspectives, and facts will contribute to new perspectives
  • Preparing data and materials for the Fall 2014 Map-a-thon
  • Potential development of mapping and communication prototypes based on time and skills of candidate

QUALIFICATIONS/REQUIREMENTS:
Graduate Level student in Urban Planning preferred, but open to undergraduates/ students from other disciplines. Candidate MUST QUALIFY for Federal Work-Study.

START DATE:
Could begin immediately on P/T basis and move to F/T during the summer.

TO APPLY:
Please send cover letter and resume to: Amanda Wiles – amanda@operationpaydirt.org

Summer 2014

Community Engagement/Planning Work Study Opportunity

BACKGROUND:
Operation Paydirt is an artist-initiated project engaging children, families, communities and leaders to imagine and actualize a future free of lead poisoning. Operation Paydirt is collaborating with MIT CoLab and regional and national lead poisoning prevention organizations to develop a national campaign against this compromise to public health. Operation Paydirt’s innovative empathetic communications and engagement strategies will be deployed through city based initiatives, compelling communities and policy makers to take action for lead poisoning prevention.

POSITION DESCRIPTION:
This summer, Operation Paydirt is working with national organizations and city based partners to build upon the project’s unique outreach methods underpinning the work of lead poisoning prevention. This is an opportunity to be a foundational collaborator and contributor to this unique aesthetic approach to improving communities. Scalable program strategies for city based initiatives will be further developed with the goal of growing awareness and community engagement for local and national lead poisoning.

Operation Paydirt is offering a position to work directly with artist, Mel Chin, Project Producers, and partnering non-profit organizations on developing a multi-pronged, engagement package that will be operational on citywide, regional, and national scales. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Co-creating communications and program materials, including creatively-driven outreach protocol, educational materials, and storytelling prototypes
  • Identifying partner organizations and creating opportunities for coalition development
  • Co-developing community engagement strategies, including an online platform
  • Researching funding opportunities and assisting with grant proposals

QUALIFICATIONS/REQUIREMENTS:
Graduate Level student in Urban Planning preferred, but open to undergraduates/ students from other disciplines. Candidate MUST QUALIFY for Federal Work-Study.

START DATE:
Could begin immediately on P/T basis and move to F/T during the summer.

TO APPLY:
Please send cover letter and resume to: Amanda Wiles – amanda@operationpaydirt.org

Economic Democracy Lab Program Assistants

Description:
For the past year and a half, CoLab has been working with the 2013 class of Mel King Community Fellows, comprising labor and community organizers, to build collaborative relationships and deepen their understanding of economic democracy (see a list of the fellows here: http://web.mit.edu/colab/people-mel-king-community-fellows.html). As part of this program, the fellows have formed small working groups to develop and test economic democracy initiatives. The current working group designations are community health and wealth, deportation and mass incarceration, labor assets, and low wage work.

During Summer 2014, CoLab will be working with our partners to provide research and strategic planning support to the working groups as they continue to develop their initiatives. Depending on funding allocation, CoLab’s partners will be hiring up to two full-time Program Assistants to work with our staff to provide this support.

Responsibilities include:

  • Support the design of alternative forms of worker organizations
  • Support the development of innovative financial products
  • Assessment of community and health care infrastructure in Florida, California and New York
  • Relevant research, as needed
  • Production of memos and participation on conference calls and in meetings

Qualifications:
The ideal candidate will have at least two or three of the following:

  • Familiarity with labor and worker organizations
  • Strong research and writing skills
  • Background or interest in racial justice
  • Background in economic development, community development and/or finance

Commitment: 40 hours/week, mid-June through end of August

Rate: $20/hr

How to apply: Please send the following materials to Nick Iuviene (iuviene@mit.edu) and Paul DeManche (demanche@mit.edu):

  • Current resume
  • Brief description of why you are interested in the position and what if any relevant experience you would bring to the project

Deadline for applying: Friday, June 6

Ongoing Media Projects

Become a CoLab Radio Contributor

If you’d like to write a journalistic article related to city and regional planning, you can pitch it to CoLab Radio. Write Alexa Mills, Director of Media Projects (alexam@mit.edu) for more information and to submit your ideas.

Events

Check out our events page and watch for us on DUSP Plaza to get updates on future events.

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