SpongeBob to ASC—My Internship in 5 Points

Shantol Williams

There’s a SpongeBob SquarePants episode in which SpongeBob breaks into a sweat trying to choose 10 words to describe “What I learned in boating school.” If you haven’t seen it, here’s the gist:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8AiuTO7sXY\

Suffice it to say, SpongeBob and I are perfectionists when it comes to writing about ourselves and our experiences – every thought must be complete, every “T” must be crossed, and every memory must be detailed.

So now it’s my turn, and while it’s not easy to edit down my every memory on the countless lessons I’ve learned during my internship at ASC—here’s a summary in 5 points:

 

1)      Event management & event planning are different

In school, I believed event planning and management were interchangeable because I was active in both roles. But ASC has taught me that, although it is important to coordinate all event logistics before the event, the responsibility does not end when the show is on the road. Managing an event means having a contingency plan, being aware of the event activities, and having a flexible staff—all things  things that lead to a successful event.

 

2)      There is no such thing as a small task, even if it may seem that way on the surface

Internships have a stigma attached where it is assumed that interns do the grunt work and are typically not trusted with large tasks. However, I never felt like an intern at ASC – I simply felt like part of the team. And because of this, no task was too small and every task was important.

 

3)      There is no such thing as a bad idea

I have a great fear of saying the wrong thing, so I tend to say nothing at all. ASC provided a safe environment to voice my thoughts and opinions without fear. At ASC, I found that the team encourages and values every idea put on the table because every idea leads to a bigger picture. I think the important lesson here is that an idea is just a seed and a seed can grow into many different things – but only if it’s planted.

 

4)      There are benefits to working for a small business

Working in a small business allows for one-on-one attention. Building relationships with clients and coworkers is easy, asking questions when you need clarification is easier, and it allowed me the opportunity to be involved in several projects. This gave me a more rounded look at the different parts of public relations and marketing.

 

5)      Teamwork really does matter

Before working at ASC, I understood the importance of teamwork to an extent. But seeing how everyone worked together and easily extended help to others when they could, really showed me the strength of being a team. In the real world, you are teaming up with clients, contractors, and a list of other people to complete a project or launch a successful event. What I learned at ASC is that everyone has a voice and every voice matters.

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Windy City PR Pro Lands at ASC

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Direct from work in Chicago for the Swedish American Museum, Chicago Sister Cities International Gothenburg Committee and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Lesli Proffitt Nordstrom joined ASC as a Public Relations/Outreach Associate less than two months ago and has already supported outreach and events for the City of White Plains Transit District Study and the New York Power Authority Innovators Summit. Here are 10 things to know about ASC’s newest employee:

1 – From a small town in Kentucky, Lesli is a life-long Wildcats fan in college basketball season. Go Cats!

2 – She helped create a statistical reporting method on property saved by New York City’s Fire Department, a tool later used to inform the public and lawmakers about the value of FDNY’s work.

3 – She was a Senior Editor for the Journal of International Affairs while earning her masters in international affairs at Columbia University.

4 – Lesli is a dual citizen of the United States and Sweden. She’s fluent in Swedish, which means she excels at correctly pronouncing all the product names from the IKEA catalog.

5 – She was a Fulbright Scholar in Sweden studying the impact of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld’s “quiet diplomacy.”

6 – Lesli loves research! Diving in to any subject is a delight. Just ask her about urban water towers.

7 – She’s traveled to 26 states, Canada, Mexico, Japan, England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Andorra, Belgium, the Netherlands, Morocco, Egypt, the Gambia, Russia, Austria and Sweden.

8 – In her free time, she likes to go hiking with her family.

9 – She competed in a middle school science fair testing the strength of different bridge designs (made of Balsa wood). She still thinks bridges are very cool.

10 – Lesli recently bought a house and has big plans to make the house more energy efficient, which has her reading about solar panels, geothermal systems and more.

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Movers and Shapers of Transit Oriented Development

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Millennials: Are they taking over? A lot of urban planners hope so. Defined by the Pew Research Center as those born after 1980, ranging in age from 18 – 34, this approximately 75-million-strong demographic is renowned for being markedly different from previous generations in ways that are affecting the landscape of the country. One of those ways is where they choose to live, which is firmly tied to how they choose to move from place to place.

Increasingly, millennials are “voting with their feet” by living and working car-free in urban settings close to transit centers. This population trend is a groundswell of support for Transit Oriented Development (TOD)—a “smart growth” strategy that promotes compact, mixed-use environments near transit hubs where people enjoy easy access to jobs, services, parks and residences. At its best, TOD creates walkable, bikable, amenity-rich communities around multi-modal transportation centers in a planning strategy that packs a dynamic multiplier effect that is good for the planet, good for the economy—and really good for quality of life.

As the nation embraces the need for urban revitalization in cities across America, TOD is clearly top of mind at the federal level. Earlier this month, when the Federal Transit Administration announced that nine cities would receive technical assistance to encourage economic development around transportation centers, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “Helping local leaders leverage their transit investments to attract more affordable housing, commercial development and jobs is a critical priority for the Department.”

With several millennials working among us, ASC is proud to be helping our very own City of White Plains re-imagine its transit center as part of the Multimodal Transportation Center Redevelopment Project. The planning phase of the project is backed by a $1 million grant from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities Program administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Working with design and engineering firm WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, ASC supports and facilitates Mayor Tom Roach’s Project Stakeholder Task Force with communications and outreach to solicit public input from a diverse population to help move the project from design to reality. It’s a critical first step in reshaping the future of a great city. It’s exciting, forward-thinking work—energizing and inspiring. It’s enough to make you feel young again!

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Saying Thank You on 9/11

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All too often, individuals working in public service, whose jobs require them to put their lives at risk every day, do not receive the recognition they deserve. To show our support for the men and women we turn to in an emergency, ASC spent this year’s 9/11 Memorial Day donating blood and assembling Thank You packages for first responders at the Westchester County’s 9/11: Serve + Remember event, coordinated by Volunteer New York!

Volunteering is part of who we are and what we do. It’s deeply embedded in the ASC culture. As a socially responsible company, we reduce our impact on the environment through commuter benefits and give back to our community with pro-bono causes like Warrior Hike and volunteer days. We seek work that is meaningful and changes lives. Over the years, we’ve discovered that volunteering is not only inherently meaningful, it can also change our lives.

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Just last week our lives were directly impacted by emergency personnel when one of our employees got stuck in an elevator. In rapid response, members of the White Plains Fire Department came to the rescue. The incident added to our sense of appreciation  when we gathered with other volunteers at the County Center, as we stood collectively to say thank you to those who stand ever ready to take care of people in need.

As we put down roots in White Plains, it’s important that we continue our commitment to corporate responsibility in our new community. Friday’s event was our first of many volunteering events to come.

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Remote Access: My Summer at ASC

Nora & Alec

Let me begin this post by explaining the unique situation I was in to land this internship.

Last semester, I was in Milan, Italy, studying marketing and communications at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Awesome school. Great city. Drop what you’re doing and attend for a semester or two. I promise it’s worth it). Anyway, while abroad, I was on the hunt for a summer internship back home, which was not an easy task because most U.S. employers were not interested in the hassle of communicating with a potential intern across the Atlantic. A family friend tipped me off that ASC offers paid internships for college students and, being a past intern, he spoke very highly of the company, so I decided to shoot them an email along with my resume and cover letter. I anxiously awaited a reply and was thrilled when, few days later, I got a response from Nora, who was more than willing to accommodate an international phone interview.

After purchasing Skype minutes for the interview I was feeling confident and prepared for my 7:30 PM (1:30 PM in the States) phone call. 7:30 PM rolled around and, as luck would have it, my phone decided it would not be making any outbound calls at the time. You can imagine the panic I felt. Frantic, I scrambled to find my roommate and borrow his phone. Twelve minutes late, I finally got in contact with Nora. I like to think the interview went well despite the delay, because about a week later, I got an email with an offer for a full-time summer internship with ASC. I was ecstatic and gladly accepted.

I learned later that ASC was in the midst of relocating from their office in Pawling, NY, to White Plains. I was excited to hear this and was looking forward to finally meeting Nora and the rest of the team. On my first day, I walked into the office to a look of shock from Nora because she was amazed by how tall I was! (By phone or in person, I’m 6 foot 3 inches tall.)

From day one, I could tell that this was going to be a very valuable internship to have under my belt. Not having any previous experience in Federal and State agency work made it difficult at first to understand how the business was run (not to mention the plethora of acronyms that are impossible to remember and keep track of). After a week or two of immersion into the business, Allie, Associate Project Manager and Commissioner of Games (see below), really helped me  learn the ropes and got me working on very relevant projects and assignments. (Thanks Allie!) I learned a lot about public awareness and public outreach and some of the secrets of ASC’s success. Here’s one: The devil is in the details. We proofread everything like crazy around here.

Interning for ASC this summer has truly been rewarding. The team has been extremely helpful and considerate to a newbie like me, and I really felt as if I was part of the team. I just want to give a huge shout out to Nora and the entire ASC team for welcoming me into their crazy world of public relations and strategic communications in their new White Plains office. It has truly been a pleasure.

Oh, and a tip for any potential new hires within ASC—make sure you brush up on your Pictionary and word games for lunch/game day every Thursday. They can be very competitive, so come with your A-game.

Alec Iacovelli is a senior at Western Connecticut State University, where he is majoring in Marketing.

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This time, it worked.

Staff Thank You

Just inked a lease on a dream.  After 22 years, ASC has relocated to a loft-like space in downtown White Plains, and while the location, technology, and access to work force talent are great, here’s what matters most about this move:  ASC is a success story for the public agencies and large prime contracting clients we serve—and for the government programs that give small, women-owned, disadvantaged business a seat at the government contracting table.

There’s plenty of doubt cast on government programs, but our move is a “this time it worked” moment.

In our home state of New York, Governor Cuomo set a new goal of 30% for contract awards to small business.  And large businesses who win contracts are expected to allocate a percentage of the work to small business—and to mentor the small businesses on their contracting teams.

New York worked hard to keep us here.  The support and incentives from programs like the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency and Hire Westchester made us want to stay—and helped us choose Westchester as the place to set down new roots.

So we’re using this relocation to say Thank You. Thank you to the government programs in transportation, energy, and the environment that have trusted us with their communications, graphics, and event needs. Thank you to the prime contractors that have partnered with us, time and again, to deliver effective and innovative public outreach. And thank you to the sub-contractors that make a small company into a big force.

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