Tackling Social Issues Nick Watson '22 is spending the summer working on housing issues as part of his Shepherd internship with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity in Vermont.
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies, possibly Education Policy
Q: What factors led you to choose W&L?
The economics program and its intersection with the Shepherd program really drew me in. They’re both phenomenal programs with amazing professors. Additionally, I came here for a visit with the cross country and track team and I loved the school. Those guys are fantastic. They have made my experience, outside of the classroom, what it is.
Q: What made you decide on your major and minor?
I’ve just always loved economics. Macro level and developmental economics are super interesting to me. What I think cemented my major and minor, though, were two classes I took with professors Art Goldsmith and Jim Casey. These classes were the Economics of Social Issues and Developmental Economics, and I recommend them to anyone who is interested in the econ major. Those classes really showed me how versatile the study of economics is and the importance of being able to look through that lens when you’re trying to tackle pressing social issues. I am forever grateful that I was able to take those courses early on in my academic career. They ultimately led me to the job that I’m working right now!
Q: Were your summer plans impacted in any way by COVID?
Yes and no. I was originally supposed to work two internships this spring and summer. During Spring Term, I was supposed to work in Mexico as an ESOL teacher with a few other W&L students. That was unfortunately canceled. My summer internship went through a number of logistical shifts in the months of April and May, with the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP) ultimately taking it online. I was lucky enough that my SHECP internship with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity is in Vermont, where the number of COVID cases is not currently that high, and I was able to convince the director to let me move here to work in person.
Q: What kind of work have you been doing this summer with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity?
I primarily work with the Mobile Home and Fair Housing Programs. Despite the pandemic, it was a pretty smooth transition into their offices in Burlington, Vermont, and I love the work and the people that I’m working with. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve worked with another SHECP intern on research projects looking at the available resources for mobile home residents. We’ve found that there are some serious barriers for online communication for many mobile home park residents. Many mobile home parks in Vermont are found in more rural areas, and access to affordable internet and telephone options are severely limited. In a time where face-to-face interaction is restricted, having access to reliable and low-cost internet and telephone options is an absolute necessity as the world shifts online. In the coming weeks, we will begin work on a new program surrounding civic engagement in mobile home parks and, hopefully, we can address this barrier to communication and education.
Q: What’s been the most rewarding part of this summer so far?
Honestly, just interacting with my coworkers. Whether it’s a casual conversation or something more work-related, it’s wonderful to talk to people face-to-face and engage with them.
Q: Has anyone on campus served as a mentor to you?
A number of people. Professors Art Goldsmith, Jim Casey and Howard Pickett and Coach Brandon Spalding have played instrumental roles in my college career so far. I would also like to mention that my fantastic friends and teammates have played a huge role in my college experience.
Q: Favorite shop/restaurant in Lexington?
Cook Out. I get the beef quesadillas.
Q: What’s your personal motto?
“I got the wings of heaven on my shoes, I’m a dancing man and I just can’t lose” (The Bee Gees) and “Summer’s not as long as it used to be, every day counts like crazy”(Frank Ocean)
Q: What film or book do you recommend to everyone?
“La La Land” is my favorite movie of all time.
Q: Favorite W&L event?
Q: What have you missed most during the pandemic?
Social interaction and running with the boys.
Q: Anything you wish we’d asked?
I wish you asked me for a song! Here’s a song I haven’t been able to ing.