Darien Alexander Williams
Economic Development specialization and the Natural Hazard Resilience Certificate
Intern with the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery & Resilience Initiative (HMDRRI) and Research Assistant for Professor Mai Nguyen on her project In the Shadows of Ferguson
Both of Darien’s internship opportunities came about through being active in the department and talking with students and faculty on a regular basis about his interests and noting when their interests intersected. His work experiences this summer provided him with tangible sets of experiences that he has already referred to numerous times in his studies this semester, and will likely shape how he approaches problems in the future. Both opportunities gave him space to use skills he felt confident in (writing, interviewing, photography) as well as try out less-developed skills in meaningful settings (GIS, physically drawing maps).
At HMDRRI, Darien focused on collecting, interpreting, and portraying data relating to the population and flooding endured in late 2016 by the town of Princeville, NC. This culminated in an intensive multi-day design workshop which aimed to create an organized plan for the town moving forward and rebuilding with hazard resilience in mind. Several dozen architects, planners, landscape architects, and engineers flew into North Carolina to lend their minds towards this effort.
With Professor Nguyen, Darien examined historical records, visited with artists, residents, activists, and others to put together an image of housing policy and municipal fragmentation throughout the history of St. Louis up until the police murder of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, MO. The project aims to present this information in a dynamic live stage production, accessible to people outside the field of research. The research team made a field visit to Missouri mid-summer, which furnished Darien’s understanding of racial marginalization and antiblackness in the US with concrete historical examples.
For students nervous about prospect of applying for internships, Darien offers the following advice:
“I think it’s really important to be creative when thinking about internships. You don’t have to go through some anxious application and interview process with an organization staffed by people you don’t know. Often opportunities are in front of you, in your friend groups, and with people you see every day – requiring only a single conversation to get the ball rolling. I’ve found that by being deliberate with my relationships (getting to know people whose work I enjoy), usually leads to being presented an opportunity. Only sometimes is it a formal “You should work for us!” Sometimes it looks like someone with extra grant money but no idea what to use it for, or someone asking you to proofread something, take a look at some maps, or sit with them for lunch.”