By Aimee Duffy
Design Workshop established an internship program in honor of Dr. Charles Fountain, founder of the Landscape Architecture Program at North Carolina A and T State University in appreciation of his pioneering efforts. This internship was created to provide opportunities for students of color, who are underrepresented in the fields of landscape architecture and planning, to gain experience in an interdisciplinary design office environment. Since 2020, 30 students have been selected from over 165 applicants for three separate internship cohorts. Recruited from universities around the country, these talented students are the future of our profession. Selected students are placed across eight Design Workshop offices and the program runs concurrently with our other summer internship programs.
At Design Workshop, interns have the opportunity to work on projects within each of their studios, as well as a group project with the other interns. This requires the students to learn how to collaborate cross-office and exposes them to both the business and creative environment. In the summer of 2022, the project was based in Denver. The seven interns in the 2022 class were asked to create a green infrastructure toolkit to support future community engagement and visioning for Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, one of the oldest and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city. Throughout the project the team worked directly with the client, the Green Dot Coalition, made up of the National Wildlife Federation, Greenspaces, Lincoln Hills Cares, Urban Sanctuary, and the Heart of Five Points.
The group kicked off the project together in Denver by visiting the area, meeting with the client groups, and learning more about the history and context of the neighborhood. Serving as a cultural hub in Denver for generations, the neighborhood has experienced a transformation from an industrial zone to dense residential within the last 20 years. The area, not originally intended for human use, has a severe lack of trees and vegetation which exacerbates the urban heat island effect while leaving the area susceptible to flooding. The group developed a green infrastructure toolkit, which they called “Greening Five Points.” The document helps to communicate the importance of prioritizing improvements in the neighborhood through data and analysis.
Today, Design Workshop Foundation, the firm’s 501C3, continues to provide support for the Green Dot Coalition by supporting implementation and planning efforts for Greening Five Points, and will help engage the neighborhood in improvements that will provide dramatic and lasting environmental, social and climate resilience benefits.
Mentorship is an important part of the internship program. We require that our volunteer mentors are willing to invest time and energy into the student’s professional success. This means welcoming the student to our firm, responding to the mentee’s needs, ensuring that open lines of communication are always available, providing needed emotional support, and demonstrating success at work while helping the student to contribute to our company culture.
We are currently recruiting for the 2024 student intern class. Work will include project research, site visits, sketching, computer production, design reviews, and marketing proposal assistance, presentation practice and skill building. We will accept applications from students of color pursuing degrees in landscape architecture, urban design, or planning. Those with dual experience in both landscape architecture and urban design or planning are strongly encouraged to apply.
We are seeking those who understand the mission of Design Workshop, share our concerns for the environment, our passion for quality, and our desire to make a difference and can enrich the firm with their own perspectives. We want to hire students who have a strong desire to learn, are great leaders, and set a good example for others. The opportunity to exchange ideas with talented candidates from diverse backgrounds fosters firm and individual growth, strengthens a project’s decision-making process, and creates a global community in the workplace. It also builds a recruiting pipeline for Design Workshop. Since the inception of the program a few years ago, the firm has hired many of the Dr Charles Fountain internship students full-time after they have graduated.
Aimee Duffy is the director of human resources at Design Workshop. For more information about the Dr. Charles Fountain Internship program, visit www.designworkshop.com.